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Patrick Donohue

Patrick H Donohue


Jan-Dec 2014: University of Notre Dame
Postdoctoral Researcher, nuclear forensics

2008-2014: University of Notre Dame
Ph.D., Geological Sciences

2004-2008: State University of New York at Geneseo  US-NY-Geneseo
Bachelor of Arts, Geological Sciences

Summary of Activities/Interests

The first nuclear bomb test, codenamed Trinity, was performed in July 1945 at the White Sands Proving Grounds (near Alamogordo, New Mexico). The device, Gadget, was an implosion-type design with a plutonium (Pu-239) core. Trinity was a successful test, and the heat resulting from the 18 kiloton explosion melted the desert sand out to distances of 400 meters from ground zero. The melted sand rapidly cooled to form a glassy layer (up to 2 cm thick) now referred to as Trinitite (alternatively, Alamogordo glass). This post-detonation material is a valuable tool in nuclear forensics research. Trinitite incorporated pieces of the Gadget and blast tower, and one of our goals is to identify and characterize the distribution and composition of individual components through geochemical and radionuclide analysis.

My Ph.D. research focused on the origin and evolution of high-titanium lunar basalts, particularly through application of crystal stratigraphy techniques to the Apollo 17 high-titanium basalt suite. You can see thin sections of my samples at the online Lunar Sample Atlas. Crystal stratigraphy combines petrology and geochemistry to unravel the origin and evolution of basalts. Through my research we obtain a better understanding of lunar volcanism and basalt petrogenesis, and my thesis will be the most thorough (and best) analysis of the Apollo 17 high-titanium basalt suite ever.

Methods of textural analysis

  • petrography
  • crystal size distributions
  • spatial distribution profiles

Methods of geochemical analysis

  • electron probe microanalysis (EPMA): major and minor elements
  • laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS): trace elements