Degree: Ph.D. in Geosciences and Biogeochemistry (2021)
Thesis title:“The formation of iron (hydr)oxides in surface environments: A crystallographic and kinetic study”
Adviser: Peter J. Heaney
Si Athena Chen received her undergraduate degree in Gemology and Material Science from the China University of Geosciences (CUG) in Wuhan, China in 2016. She has two diplomas from CUG in Gem Diamond Grading and Gem Identification, and a diploma in Gemology from the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
At Penn State, Dr. Chen studied the crystal growth of natural and synthetic iron oxides, demonstrating that nanoparticulate hematite and goethite often occur as superhydrous phases. Her examination of a suite of “turgite” specimens from the historic Genth collection at Penn State confirmed their identity as an improperly discredited mineral called hydrohematite. Dr. Chen’s in situ crystal growth studies using the synchrotron at the Advanced Photon Source (Argonne National Laboratory) revealed the temperature and pH conditions that favor the formation of superhydrous hematite and goethite phases.
While at Penn State, Dr. Chen earned competitive internships with the Gemological Institute of America (2019) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (2021). She was active in the Bearded Ladies Project and in the Junior Education Days run by the Nittany Mineralogical Society. She is skilled in a variety of materials characterization techniques, including X-ray and neutron diffraction, transmission and scanning electron microscopy, and infrared and inelastic neutron spectroscopy. In addition, she has modeled iron vacancies and hydrogen positions in hydrohematite using density functional theory (DFT) in collaboration with Prof. James Kubicki (UTEP). Dr. Chen’s outstanding achievements were recognized with the Kraus Crystallography Award by the Mineralogical Society of America (2021). Currently she is a postdoctoral fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and she serves as the associate technical editor for Gems and Gemology.