Steven Jacobsen

Steven Jacobsen

Director of Graduate Admissions
Email: steven at
Location: Tech F297/F298

Ph.D. Geophysics; University of Colorado
M.S. Geology; University of Colorado
B.A. Geology; University of Colorado

Research Website


Professor Jacobsen is a mineralogist specializing in experimental mineral physics, which applies atomic-scale structure and physical properties of materials to understand global-scale processes in solid-Earth geophysics and geochemistry, planetary science, as well as high-pressure physical chemistry and materials science.

Using diamond-anvil cells, Jacobsen investigates how pressure modifies fundamental properties of materials such as structure, bonding, and elasticity, with emphasis on the role of defects in crystals. Hydrogen defects in minerals, stabilized at high pressures of the deep mantle, could represent the largest geochemical reservoir of H2O in the Earth and influenced the evolution of our habitable planet. Using high-pressure ultrasonic methods, he is developing tools for remote detection of water in the mantle from seismic imaging of the Earth’s interior.  

Other topics in Jacobsen’s lab include properties of novel superhard materials for future technological applications, elastic properties of glasses, spectroscopy of planetary ices, and the role of hydrogen, carbon, and other volatiles in Earth and planetary materials and processes.


EARTH 101: Earth Science for the 21st Century
EARTH 102: The Future of Renewable Energy (First year seminar)
EARTH 300: Earth and Planetary Materials
EARTH 301: Petrology: Evolution of Crustal and Mantle Rocks
EARTH 438: Adv. Topics: Water in the Solar System
EARTH 438: Adv. Topics: Mineral Physics From Crust to Core
EARTH 440: Metamorphic and Sedimentary Petrology

Selected Publications

Chang, Y.Y., S.D. Jacobsen, M. Kimura, T. Irifune, and I. Ohno (2014) Elastic properties of transparent nano-polycrystalline diamond measured by GHz-ultrasonic interferometry and resonant sphere methods. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 228, 47-55.

Chang, Y.Y., S.D. Jacobsen, J.F. Lin, C.R. Bina, S.M. Thomas, J. Wu, G. Shen, Y. Xiao, P. Chow, D.J. Frost, C.A. McCammon, and P. Dera (2013) Spin transition of Fe3+ in Al-bearing phase D: an alternative explanation for small-scale seismic scatterers in the mid-lower mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 382, 1-9.

Jacobsen, S.D., Z. Liu, T.B. Ballaran, E.F. Littlefield, L. Ehm, and R.J. Hemley (2010) Effect of H2O on upper mantle phase transitions in MgSiO3: is the depth of the seismic X-discontinuity an indicator of mantle water content? Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 183, 234-244.

Jacobsen, S.D., F. Jiang, Z. Mao, T.S. Duffy, J.R. Smyth, C.M. Holl, and D.J. Frost (2008) Effects of hydration on the elastic properties of olivine. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L14303.

Schmandt, B., S.D. Jacobsen, T.W. Becker, Z. Liu, and K.G. Dueker (2014) Dehydration melting at the top of the lower mantle. Science 344, 1265-1268.

Research Interests

  • Mineral Physics
  • Solid-Earth Geophysics and Geochemistry
  • Mineralogy and Petrology

Steven Jacobsen Photos

Gem-diamonds as superhard transparent anvils

View of single-crystal silicate spinel (blue) inside a hard rhenium gasket

Crystal of Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet between a pair of tweezers

October 25, 2016