About Us

The Minerals, Materials and Society Program was developed through a grant from the Unidel Foundation to serve a critical need of improved research and training around mineral supply chains that fuel our modern economy. Minerals are the functional form in which the elements of the earth reach human needs and are essential for all products: food production needs minerals such as phosphates and nitrates; infrastructure and electronics need a wide array of metallic minerals; and adornment products such as jewelry use minerals more directly as well.  Minerals are also essential for energy production and hence our program will also consider the full range of mineral supply chains for a variety of energy production technologies.

While mining and extractive industries  provide a wide array of these minerals, there is also an increasing move towards recycled sources of key metals and other materials. In addition a range of synthetic materials are competing with primary mineral products and assessing their comparative environmental and social values require techniques from nascent fields such as industrial ecology and ecological economics.  We also recognize the importance of relatively new paradigms such as the “circular economy” in further testing the efficacy of contemporary mineral supply chains. Participants in this program will garner knowledge and tools to assess the functionality of these global trends that could further their career prospects in a wide array of fields.

Administrative Team

Dr. Saleem H. Ali, Director of Minerals, Materials and Society Program and Distinguished Professor of Geography 

As Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment at UD, Dr. Ali is the founding director of the Minerals, Materials and Society (MMS) program. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Columbia University Center on Sustainable Investment, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia. The World Economic Forum recognized his leadership in forming collaborative programs between academia and industry as a “Young Global Leader” citation in 2011.  He has also been recognized as an “Explorer” by the National Geographic Society for his work on using the environment to help resolve conflicts. Professor Ali is a member of the United Nations International Resources Panel, and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (the world’s largest multilateral trust find for the environment, held in trusteeship by the World Bank). Professor Ali holds a doctorate in environmental planning from MIT, a Masters in Environmental Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor of Science (summa cum laude) in Chemistry from Tufts University. His Google Scholar profile with list of publications is linked here.

Dr. Julie Klinger, Associate Director of Minerals, Materials and Society Program and Asst. Professor of Geography 

Dr. Klinger studies the geography, geology, and geopolitics of development and resource use. She has carried out in-depth fieldwork in China, Brazil, and other countries that are affected by the mining of rare earth elements. Her book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes (2017) traces the history and use of rare earth elements from the 1880s to the present. Rare Earth Frontiers won the 2017 Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography given by the American Association of Geographers (AAG) for making an “unusually important” contribution to advancing the science and art of geography. She earned her PhD in geography at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, and previously co-directed the Land Use and Livelihoods Initiative at the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University. Her current research focuses on responsible sourcing of technology metals. This includes engagement with frontline communities, work on international standards, and research funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant to study illicit supply chains in this sector using novel computational, qualitative, and remote sensing research. Her current book project examines the environmental, economic, and political dimensions of mineral exploration in outer space. Her Google Scholar profile is linked here.

Patricia Syvrud, MBA, G.G., Founding Program Manager

Patricia Syvrud was the founding Program Manager for the University of Delaware’s Climate Change Science and Policy Hub. She joined UD in the spring of 2018 after more than 25 years working in the international jewelry industry. Ms. Syvrud was the first Executive Director of the World Diamond Council, an international organization that represents the diamond pipeline at the UN-mandated Kimberley Process forum, and is a current member of the Board of Directors of the United States Kimberley Process Authority. Skilled in organizational infrastructure and project management, Ms. Syvrud holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a Graduate Gemologist designation from the Gemological Institute of America. Her career highlights include cataloging the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution; building a world-class gem, mineral and jewelry collection for the Gemological Institute of America; and pro bono consultant to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on her pin exhibit and book, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box.” Ms. Syvrud serves on the Governance Committee of the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, the board of the University of Arizona’s Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum and the Advisory board of Ethical Metalsmiths. Although she has left the program she continues to support our work through her networks and we honor her for the foundational role she played in the program’s establishment.

Leadership - The Friends of Mineralogy Virginia Chapter (FMVA) Inc.Thomas Hale, Education and Outreach Manager

Thomas is an avid mineral collector and has a passion for educating the public about geoscience. He received his master’s degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. His interests span the globe with research on Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and, recently, the Arctic Circle. Thomas maintains working knowledge of the technical applications and extraction of critical minerals, while also remaining engaged in the policy and defense communities. He is the host of a podcast titled “A Rock & A Hard Place,” where he convenes experts to discuss contemporary issues in the mining and defense space. Thomas also founded the first mineral literacy nonprofit in the country, supporting K-12 educators and local industry with engaging communities about the importance of mining in modern society.

Core University of Delaware Faculty

Dr. Mohsen Badiey, Professor

Dr. Badiey’s research focuses on the following: ocean acoustics and acoustical oceanography; shallow water, high frequency acoustic wave propagation and scattering; low frequency acoustic wave propagation; real-time observation of coastal ocean; surface gravity waves and current variations; atmosphere and ocean interaction in coastal regions. He served as Interim Dean of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. D. Badiey acted as the program director at the Office of Naval Research, Ocean Acoustics Program between 1992 and 1995. He obtained his Ph.D. in Applied Marine Physics and Ocean Engineering from the University of Miami Rosenstiel – School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Dr. Kimberly Bothi, Director, Global Engineering

Dr. Bothi joined the College of Engineering in 2017 as the Director of Global Engineering Programs. She was previously the associate director for science and engineering at UD’s Institute for Global Studies. Dr. Bothi is propelling the College of Engineering forward in cross-disciplinary, global experiences in and out of the classroom. She advises the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders with projects in Malawi and the Philippines, in addition to local service activities. She will also co-teach courses on global health innovation and sustainable engineering design in cross-cultural settings. Dr. Bothi earned a doctoral degree in natural resources at Cornell University, with a research focus on community-based natural resource management in West Africa. She also holds degrees in environmental engineering from Cornell and McGill, and has conducted interdisciplinary research and consultancies across sub-Saharan Africa.

Sharon Fitzgerald, Mineralogical Museum Curator

Dr. Fitzgerald is the Curator of the University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum, part of the Library, Museums and Press. She has Masters Degrees in Geology and Philosophy of Education, and a Ph.D. in Mineralogy, with research in conjunction with the Department of Chemistry on the crystal structures of minerals. Dr. Fitzgerald has been Curator since 2007, when she undertook a major restructuring of the collection and designed new exhibition and storage spaces. She has researched and published a monograph in The Mineralogical Record on the history of the collection that dates back to George Kunz and Tiffany & Co. in the late 1800’s. She has also published scientific papers in major mineralogical journals. Dr. Fitzgerald is a Gemologist (Gemological Institute of America certificate) and before joining the University worked for 20 years in the jewelry industry as a colored gemstone buyer and appraiser.

Dr. George Irvine, Associate Vice Provost, Division of Professional and Continuing Studies

Dr. Irvine has extensive experience building knowledge partnerships between universities and businesses/organizations in order to catalyze organizational and economic development. At the UD Lerner College of Business and Economics, Dr. Irvine extends the college’s research-based knowledge to the Delaware and Mid-Atlantic business community via customized and open-enrollment executive education programs. In prior positions at UD, UNC Chapel Hill and IIE, Dr. Irvine managed international education and technical assistance projects in partnership with US government agencies (USAID, DOC, USDA, and the State Department) and corporate foundations. Dr. Irvine earned his PhD in Urban Affairs and Public Policy in May 2018 from the University of Delaware. His dissertation focused on the changing public identities of American research universities between 1975 and 2015. His teaching and research interests include international development, public policy, corporate social responsibility and environmental policy. He has work and travel experience in twenty five (25) countries on four continents and is proficient in German and French.

Dr. Sandy Isenstadt, Director of the Center for Material Culture Studies

Dr. Isenstadt teaches the history of modern architecture, concentrating on developments in Europe and the United States, but including as well courses on the global spread of modernism. His writings span post-World War II reformulations of modernism by émigré architects such as Richard Neutra, Josep Lluis Sert, and Henry Klumb; visual polemics in the urban proposals of Leon Krier and Rem Koolhaas; and histories of American refrigerators, picture windows, landscape views, and real estate appraisal. Current projects include “Electric Modernism,” a study of the cultural reception of electric lighting, moving in scale from handheld flashlights and automobile headlamps to homes, the workplace, schools, and shops, to building exteriors and city skylines; and “The Rise and Fall of Modern Shopping,” a short book focusing on the spatial infrastructure of shopping as it changed from the Renaissance through today. His work has been recognized with fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, N.J., the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, in Washington, D.C. Before teaching architecture, he practiced architecture in Cambridge, Mass.

Dr. Delphis Levia, Professor of Ecohydrology

Dr. Levia is a forest hydrologist. His research expertise lies in biosphere-climate interactions, snow science and forest bio-geochemistry (the biological, chemical, physical and geological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the forest). His field research projects include work in the forests of Maryland and Switzerland. He examines snow pack and the forest canopy and their relation to avalanche hazards. Dr. Levia is the program director for UD’s Environmental Science and Environmental Studies undergraduate program. He is a Series Editor at the Ecological Studies- Analysis and Synthesis (Springer Verlag) and an Associate Editor, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science (Wiley). He is the head of the Ecohydrology Group at the University of Delaware. Dr. Levia received his Ph.D. in Geography from Clark University, Worcester.

Dr. George W. Luther III, Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor Emeritus

Dr. Luther’s interests cover a wide range of areas including redox reactions in the environment, trace element speciation in marine waters and sediments, biogeochemical processes, electrochemistry and microelectrode technology, including development of in situ sensors. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry. He has published numerous articles in professional journals including Marine Chemistry, Deep Sea Research, Aquatic Geochemistry, Limnology and Oceanography, Corrosion, Science and Nature. In addition, he is currently the associate editor of Marine Chemistry, Aquatic Geochemistry and Geochemical Transactions.

Dr. Syed Shah, Professor, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering

Dr. Shah’s work focuses on nanomaterials. His research interests include nanomaterials for use in energy and the environment: nanomaterials for photocatalysis, electrolysis and photovoltaics. Dr. Shah conducts “cradle to grave” studies of nanomaterials, including synthesis, characterization and interactions at various interfaces. He can also discuss nanomagnetism. The research group at the University of Delaware that Dr. Shah leads centers on Nanomaterials for Energy, Environment and Water, including inorganic materials (CuInGSe 2 ) and organic materials (P3HT/PCBM) based solar cells, device modeling, materials for photocatalysis, etc.Other areas include: Large band gap oxides (TiO 2 ) nanoparticles: Band structure modification,Photocatlysis and Photoelectrocatalysis, Nanomagnetics: Ferrites, Haussler alloys, core shell geometries, Surface and interface analyses: XPS and UPS characterizations for studying interface interactions in electronic devices, Science, Ethics, Diversity and Policy.

Dr. Neil C Sturchio, Professor and Chair of Dept. of Geological Sciences

Dr. Sturchio chaired the Department of Geological Sciences in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment from 2015 to 2019 and was on the program development committee for the MMS program. Dr. Sturchio moved to UD in September 2014 from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he was also the department chair. Prior to moving to academia, Dr. Sturchio was a senior scientist at Argonne National Labs. Dr. Sturchio’s research interests include: biogeochemistry; rock-water interactions; stable and radioactive isotope tracers in aquifers, geothermal systems, sediments, and soils; geochemical applications of synchrotron radiation. Dr. Sturchio obtained his Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University (St. Louis, MO).

Dr. Vikramaditya Thakur, Assistant Professor

Dr. Thakur received his Ph.D. from Yale University (2014) in Sociocultural Anthropology. He has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE, 2014-16), and Brown University (2016-17). His doctoral dissertation studied the forced displacement and relocation of over four thousand families of Bhils, a hill community in western India, due to one of the largest dams in the world on Narmada River. It was informed by two years of fieldwork and archival research using a historical perspective. His subsequent project at LSE, involving 15 months of fieldwork, focused on the transformation of agriculture and changes in the household economy that built on his earlier work on the Bhils. As a Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Brown, he ran the project, Displacement and the Making of the Modern World in Middle East Studies, investigating 500 years of displacement around the world. His publications include a co-authored book, Ground Down By Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st Century India (Oxford University Press, India and Pluto Press, London, 2017). His research interests include development studies, environmental anthropology and political anthropology, informed by oral history and archival records.

Dr. Mónica Domínguez Torres, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Dr. Torres specializes in Renaissance and Baroque art in the Hispanic World. Her research focuses on the interaction of Mesoamerican and European visual cultures during the 16th century and the production of military imagery and heraldry in the indigenous settlements of the central valley of Mexico (1521-1600). She can discuss religious art in the Iberian World (1400-1700), early modern images of the Caribbean (1492-1650) and of Iberian conquests in the New World (1492-1650). Dr. Torres obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.

Affiliated External Faculty

Dr. Laurent E. Cartier FGA

Dr. Cartier is a lecturer and researcher on gemstones at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). He also works for the Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF, a leading gemmological laboratory. Dr. Cartier holds a Ph.D. from the University of Basel (Switzerland). His Ph.D. research explored sustainability and traceability issues in pearl farming, and in this context he co-founded the Sustainable Pearls project which also obtained funding from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. He has been working for a number of years on issues of natural resource management and sustainable sourcing of gemstone materials. He continues to work on sustainability issues in colored gemstones and diamonds and frequently visits mining areas, most recently in West Africa and Burma. He has authored articles in all major gemological journals. His work has been presented in National GeographicBBCFastCoExistInhorgenta and Tages Anzeiger. He holds a Master in Earth Sciences from Basel University and is a fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.

Dr. Gabriela Mundaca

Gabriela Mundaca does research on resource economics, energy economics, environmental economics, international economics, financial economics. She is Expenditure Policy Advisor for the IMF, and Consultant for the World Bank, Washington D.C. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from University of New York, Stony Brook. She was a researcher and advisor to the Central Bank of Norway and participated in the policy strategy design to manage Norway’s oil wealth. She has taught at Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, College Park; and was assistant professor at the University of Oslo (Norway). She has published several articles in refereed international journals.

About the University of Delaware

The University of Delaware (UD) is uniquely qualified to be the home of this innovative interdisciplinary program given its existing strengths and resources in Energy and the Environment, Public Policy, Engineering, Marine Science, Business and Sustainability programs:

  • The establishment of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration and the Biden Institute by former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in 2017 provides a high-impact policy platform for such professional programs.
  • The University is home to one of the world’s finest, small mineral collections, of which many specimens came directly from Tiffany and Co. This showcase collection will inspire and educate our students and build bridges with gem trading New York city and museum-rich Washington, DC, as well as other museums around the world.
  • UD’s central location between NYC and Washington, DC allows easy access to industry leaders, non-profit and civil servants, and policy professionals in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S.

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