Laura Waters

Assistant Professor

Laura in the mountains.
Darwin 121

As an outdoor enthusiast and geologist, I enjoy discovering and teaching how geology–or the combined effects of tectonics, magmatism, uplift and erosion– leads to the production of spectacular landscapes in the Western US.


2013 Ph.D. Geology: Experimental Geochemistry and Volcanology; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

2008 B.S. in Geology, Cum Laude; Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA

Academic Interests

I am primarily interested in constraining the processes that govern the evolution, differentiation and stratification of continental crust through petrographic (studying minerals and whole-rock compositions) and experimental studies of volcanics related to subduction and extension.


My research on the origin and evolution of continental crust (silica-rich, buoyant sections of Earth’s crust) incorporates both field and experimental work, with several field sites in the western US (CA, OR, NV). I currently have an active undergraduate research group examining compositions, the mineral phases, and pre-eruptive conditions (i.e., temperature, pressure, and dissolved volatile contents) of volcanics that erupted from South Sister Volcano, OR and volcanics that erupted in Sonoma & Napa Counties. I integrate research topics into course material so that students have an opportunity to apply course concepts to real datasets. Moreover, I teach igneous and metamorphic petrology with context given to tectonic setting so that students can exit upper level courses with a profound understanding of how magmatism and tectonics combine to produce the array of volcanics erupting on Earth today.

Selected Publications & Presentations

Waters, L.E. and Lange, R. A. (2017) Why aplites freeze and rhyolites erupt: controls on the accumulation and eruption of high-SiO2 (eutectic) melts. Geology 47 (available online).

Waters, L.E. & Andrews, B.J. (2016) The Role of Superheating in the Formation of Glass Mountain Obsidians (Long Valley, CA) inferred through Crystallization of Sanidine. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 171, 79 (1-19).

Waters, L.E. and Lange, R. A. (2015) An updated calibration of the plagioclase-liquid hygrometer-thermometer applicable to basalts through rhyolites. American Mineralogist, 100, 2172-2184.