Laurie Brown

Professor Emeritus
10 Morrill Science Center
(413) 545-0245
PhD 1974 Oregon State
Research Interests: 

An elective course in geology at Middlebury College convinced Laurie Brown in her senior year that her future lay in the geosciences. She used her undergraduate degree in mathematics to pursue a master's degree in geophysics at the University of Wyoming, working on gravity modeling in the Rocky Mountains. Additional graduate work in geophysics and oceanography at Oregon State University led to a Ph.D. in 1974. Brown joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts that same year and established a research lab in paleomagnetism and a teaching program in geophysics. Brown's love of paleomagnetism stems in large part from the wide application of this field to many areas of geoscience. These include structure, tectonics, stratigraphy, petrology, paleoclimatology, glacial geology, and environmental problems. She approaches her work from a geologic point of view, seeking to solve problems presented by geologic observations using magnetic signatures and information. In the past this included studying tectonic rotations in the Rio Grande Rift, secular variation of lava flows from Easter Island, correlations of ash flow tuffs in Colorado, and tracking the latest magnetic field reversal in volcanoes in Chile. Brown’s current research is concentrated in two large areas – secular variation of the earth’s magnetic field over the past 5 million years, and the investigation of strongly magnetized ancient rocks as analogs for magnetic anomalies on Mars. Secular variation studies have been centered on southern South America, from the Atacama Desert region south to Patagonia. Large populations of late Miocene to younger lava flows are analyzed to provide views of magnetic field variation over time and space. Proterozoic rocks with strong negative magnetic anomalies are another area of interest with studies centered on gneisses in the Adirondacks and layered intrusions and anorthosites in southern Norway. Magnetization directions and rock magnetic properties of these strongly magnetized rocks provide insight into remanent magnetic anomalies over time on this and other planets.