Steve Jacobsen is a mineralogist who studies the physics and chemistry of materials in various aspects of geophysical, planetary, chemical and materials sciences. Jacobsen’s research in mineral physics deals with the composition, structure, and physical properties of minerals and magmas to understand the dynamic processes of the Earth and to investigate potentially useful properties of minerals and new materials for societal applications.
Jacobsen received his B.A. in geology and Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He was a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth, Germany, and the Barbara McClintock Postdoctoral Fellow at the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, in Washington DC.
Jacobsen is interested in the role of volatiles, especially water and carbon, in controlling geophysical processes driving the co-evolution of Earth’s mantle and atmosphere. He developed an ultrasonic technique for the diamond-anvil cell, known as GHz-ultrasonic interferometry, which he uses to measure acoustic velocities in Earth and planetary materials at mantle conditions. Focusing on the influence of water on mineral physical properties and melting, Jacobsen is working to map mantle water content from dense regional seismic data coming in from the USArray. His research has broader implications for the global geochemical budget and origin of the Earth’s water. In the area of superhard materials, his recent work has focused on synthesis and characterization of superhard B-C-N compounds rivaling diamond in hardness and having expanded thermal stability for potential application in abrasives and coatings.
Jacobsen is active in research and development at the National Laboratories, especially the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne and the National Synchrotron Light Source-II, where he serves on the DOE Beamline Advisory Team of the Frontiers in Infrared Spectroscopy (FIS) beamline. Jacobsen has published over 100 papers and holds one U.S. patent in the areas of geophysics, mineralogy, materials science, condensed matter physics, and planetary science.
He served as Distinguished Lecturer of the Mineralogical Society of America (2007) and received a Distinguished Teaching Award from Northwestern University in 2013. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) in 2008, a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering (2008), and a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2014. At Northwestern, Jacobsen served on the Administrative Board of The Graduate School from 2012-2014 and he was Associate Head of the Public Affairs Residential College from 2009-2014. He served on the Education, Outreach, and Infrastructure Development Committee of NSF-COMPRES from 2008-2014, and its Executive Committee 2015-2018. Jacobsen is currently Member of the Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics at the National Academy of Sciences, is Editor at Geophysical Research Letters.