Between field work in Scotland or Nepal, meetings in Denver or D.C., ushering in new students and celebrating their successes along the way, this page will keep you up to date with the recent happenings related to the UK Structure and Geodynamics Group.


Recent social updates:



Other UK Structure and Geodynamics news:


New student autumn Helfrich joins group

M.S. student Autumn Helfrich joined our group in January 2019 after completing her B.S. degree at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Autumn will be working on part of our larger Tetons project, and will be using fieldwork, thermochronology, landscape analysis, and numerical modeling to investigate the long-term incision of the range in response to varied uplift along strike.


Rachel hoar successfully defends m.s. thesis

In December 2018, M.S. student Rachel Hoar successfully defended her thesis entitled "Refining the onset timing and slip history along the northern part of the Teton fault.” Following completion of her M.S. degree, Rachel will move on to Texas A&M in January 2019 where she will start her Ph.D. work on a Chevron-sponsored project involving basin modeling at the Berg-Hughes Center for Petroleum and Sedimentary Systems.


our group gets a shout out in scientific american

Scientific American recently highlighted work that our group has been doing in collaboration with Prof. Sean Gallen at Colorado State University. In this recently published study linked here, we examine the possibility that a transient wave of river erosion following a catastrophic drainage capture event may be responsible for sustaining earthquake activity in the East Tennessee Seismic Zone.


NEW ACS-prf grant to our group will focus on salt tectonics

In November 2018, our group was awarded an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant from the Doctoral New Investigator program. This funded study will allow us to continue our work on salt diapir evolution by using the Paradox and La Popa basins as natural laboratories to test our forward finite element modeling results (recently published in Journal of Structural Geology), which indicate that salt diapirs may drive much more deformation of overburden rocks than previously realized. This grant will should fund two new M.S. students in our group.


teton FIELD SEASON 2018

In August 2018, group members Ryan Thigpen, Summer Brown, and graduate students Rachel Hoar, Meredith Swallom, and Brandon Spencer completed two weeks of fieldwork in the Tetons as part of an integrated field course for 12 graduate and undergraduate students. Instructors for the course included Thigpen, Brown, and other EES faculty that focus on glacial lake processes (McGlue) and geophysics (Woolery). During this field campaign, we collected lake seismic reflection data, samples for thermochronology, and onshore seismic reflection data in support of multiple Tetons project that examine both landscape response and the northern extension of the Teton fault. We gratefully acknowledge the Overcash Gift Fund, which paid all student expenses for this major field campaign. A quick video documentary for this work can be seen here.


our group is awarded an nsf grant!!

In July 2018, our group was awarded an NSF Tectonics grant to test the hypothesis that the southern Appalachian Inner Piedmont may have experienced orogenic channel and ‘escape’ flow during the Devonian Neoacadian orogeny. This study is critical for understanding how crustal flow may contribute to the redistribution of mass and heat in large collisional systems such as the Himalaya-Tibetan system.


European field season 2018

In May 2018, group members Ryan Thigpen and Summer Brown completed 10 days of reconnaissance fieldwork in Corisca, France to to explore one of the coldest Alpine subduction zones in the world and the more recent uplift history of this incredible island in the Mediterranean. In June 2018, Thigpen, Brown, and Ph.D. student Brandon Spencer met up in NW Scotland to initiate Brandon’s dissertation research focused on the mechanisms driving rapid orogenic collapse in the Scandian (435-405 Ma) orogenic wedge.


new student brandon spencer joins group

Brandon joined our research group in January of 2018 after completing his B.S. in Petroleum Geology and M.S. in Geology at the University of Oklahoma.  His M.S. thesis analyzed paleoweathering processes using paleomagnetic and field structural relationships.  His Ph.D. work here at UK will focus on the mechanisms and rates of orogenic collapse and decay, using the Scottish and Scandinavian Caledonides as natural laboratories.  Brandon previously worked in the oil and gas industry prior to coming to UK, concentrating on petrophysics and structural geology.


new student meredith swallom joins group

Meredith became a part of the Structure and Geodynamics team in August 2017, after securing her B.S. in Geological Sciences from UK. Throughout her undergraduate career, she cultivated a fervent interest and research skill set in petroleum systems analysis and will be spending the summer as an intern at Pioneer Natural Resources in Dallas, Texas. She will be expanding upon our group’s tectonics work in the Teton Range. Using apatite thermochronology of incised drainage basins and seismic stratigraphy in glacial lakes, Meredith hopes to definitively link tectonic forcing to active surface processes.


teton field season 2017

In August 2017, group members Ryan Thigpen and M.S. student Rachel Hoar completed a two week field season in the Tetons. Most of our work was focused on collecting transects for thermochronologic analyses aimed at constraining the uplift history of the northern (and very remote) parts of the Teton Range.


nepal field season 2017

In April-May 2017, group members Ryan Thigpen, Summer Brown, and M.S. student Stephanie Sparks completed a six week field season in Nepal focused on our ongoing work on channel and escape flow in orogenic systems. During that time, we worked along the classic transects across the Greater Himalayan Sequence, including the Modi-Khola (Annapurna), Marsyandi, and Langtang-Trishuli river sections.


UK IBA TEAM places 3rd at eastern comp

The 2017 UK IBA team placed 3rd at Eastern US regional competition this weekend. Three students from the UK Structure and Geodynamics lab participated (Rachel Hoar, Stephanie Sparks, and Meredith Swallom) as well as two additional UK geology students (Steven Zotto and Alex Reis).


teton field season 2016

Prof. Ryan Thigpen and graduate students Stephanie Sparks, Rachel Hoar, and Patrick Whalen completed two weeks of fieldwork in Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding Bridger-Teton National Forest.


new student stephanie sparks joins group

Stephanie graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2013 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. She comes to UK in July of 2016 from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science where she was involved with international science and technology policy. Her M.S. will focus on modeling the Himalayan collisional system.


New student Rachel Hoar joins group

Rachel Hoar joined our group in July 2016. For her master's research Rachel will utilize (U-Th)/He and fission track dating of apatite to continue our work on the Teton Range. These analyses will be used to test fault growth models at the crustal scale. Rachel graduated in May 2016 from James Madison University with a B.S. in Geology.