A world famous mineralogist joins the museum

Internationally renowned mineralogist John Rakovan stands before a collection of minerals.
Courtesy picture

An internationally renowned professor of mineralogy brings new energy and leadership to the mineral museum located on the New Mexico Tech campus.

John Rakovan, Ph.D., is the new state mineralogist and senior museum curator of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, succeeding Virgil Lueth, who became emeritus.

Rakovan, who began his new position Sept. 1, came to Socorro from the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, where he was a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Sciences for nearly 25 years.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Science in Clay Mineralogy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Geochemistry and Mineralogy from the State University of New York at Stony. Stream.

He did postdoctoral research in mineral-water interface geochemistry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, then joined the faculty at the University of Miami, where he started as an assistant professor in 1998 and became a full professor in 2011. .

He will remain an assistant professor of mineralogy at the University of Miami for the next two years, while continuing to advise graduate students.

As an undergrad at the University of Illinois, Rakovan’s older roommate continued his graduate studies at New Mexico Tech. His friend’s visit made him hooked on the area and its collecting opportunities.

“I’ve always been interested in minerals, so we collected from day one,” he said.

After starting graduate school and meeting his wife, Monica, who is currently a geologist and owner of an environmental consulting firm, Environmental Solutions – AQ, they continued to travel to central New Mexico for collection.

“I love this state,” Rakovan said. “There is something about it. I thought I’d still like to move here and when this (position) came up I thought ‘that’s perfect’.

Shortly after becoming a professor, Rakovan was giving a presentation at an International Mineralogical Association conference in Toronto, Canada. An audience member for his speech told Rakovan where he could find the minerals he was looking for – the Hansonburg mining district in the Oscura Mountains southeast of Socorro near the Trinity site.

That audience member was Virgil Lueth, and that connection led to a collaboration between the two mineralogists that spanned 25 years. Rakovan said the first three graduate students he advised did their fieldwork at this site.

“One of the things I plan to do as soon as I get settled here is pick up the work that we started 25 years ago,” he said. “Because it turns out there’s a new interest in what we were doing.”

Rakovan is working on a grant proposal to bring major instruments to the Bureau – a single crystal X-ray diffractometer – to aid in the identification and determination of the properties and structures of new minerals.

For his contributions to the field of mineralogy, Rakovan even has a mineral named after him, Rakovanite, a bright orange mineral found in San Miguel County, Colorado. For the past 22 years, Rakovan has been a regular contributor to and editor of Rocks and Minerals magazine, an international bimonthly publication for mineral enthusiasts and professionals.

“One of the reasons they hired me is that I’m very entrenched in the professional and amateur mineralogical communities nationwide,” he said. The reception he has received from both communities so far “has been very, very encouraging”.

Mineral enthusiasts will have the opportunity to meet Rakovan at the 42nd New Mexico Mineral Symposium November 11-13 at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center.

The symposium is organized by the Mineral Museum and sponsored by rock and mineral clubs throughout New Mexico and the town of Socorro. Rakovan will provide remarks on “Crystal Faces and Forms” on Saturday, November 12, during the first session of the symposium. More information on speakers, social events, registration, and symposium tailgating can be found at: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/museum/minsymp/home.cfml

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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