Abraham J Padilla


As a geoscientist, I am interested in the physical and chemical evolution of magmas within the Earth's crust, and in particular how silicic magmas, which are responsible for the most explosive eruptions on Earth, are generated. To date, my research has focused on the use of mineral geochemistry, and especially that of zircon crystals, to investigating the generation, evolution, and emplacement of silicic magmas in composite magmatic-volcanic systems where magmas of significantly contrasting compositions meet, mingle, and mix. I use dispersed (trace) elements (HFSE and REE, among others) and radioactive (Lu-Hf, Pb-Pb, U-Pb) as well as stable (O) isotopes to shed light on how those interactions influence the evolution and behavior of magmas, and how these changes may in turn influence the behavior of any associated volcanic systems on the surface. My work has included NSF-funded research on magmatic-volcanic complexes in the Colorado River Extensional Corridor (southwestern USA), the Gobi Desert (southwestern Mongolia), and Iceland. 

In my current role as a Mineral Commodity Specialist with the Geological Survey my job is to collect, analyze, synthesize, and disseminate information about mineral commodities (i.e. minerals with economic value) that are important for the U.S. economy and national defense. My specialties are the niobium and tantalum mineral industries. I utilize data and information on global reserves, global production, international trade, domestic consumption, government and industry stocks, as well as important trends, events, and legislation related to the niobium and tantalum industries to better understand how niobium and tantalum materials flow in and out of our economy, and how they are transformed from raw mineral materials to consumer goods.



Ph.D. Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN (2015)

  • Elemental and isotopic geochemistry of crystal-melt systems: Elucidating the construction and evolution of silicic magmas in the shallow crust, using examples from southeast Iceland and southwest USA (Advisors: Dr. Calvin F. Miller, Dr. Guilherme A.R. Gualda)

M.Sc. Earth & Environmental Science, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN (2011)

  • Volcano-Pluton Connections in Silicic Magmatic Systems: Insights from southeast Iceland and southern Nevada (Advisors: Dr. Calvin F. Miller, Dr. Guilherme A.R. Gualda)

B.A. Earth Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2009)

  • Detailed Mapping and Aluminum-in-Hornblende Thermobarometry of Enclave-Rich Mega-Plume in the Gobi-Tienshan Intrusive Complex, Southern Mongolia (Advisors: Dr. Rita C. Economos, Dr. Scott R. Paterson, Dr. J. Lawford Anderson)


Relevant Professional Experience

  • Physical Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2018–present)
  • Research & Teaching Assistant, Vanderbilt University , Nashville, TN (2009–2015)
  • Laboratory Assistant, U.S. Antarctic Program, McMurdo Station, Antarctica (2012–2013)
  • Laboratory & Collections Assistant, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA (2008)
  • Research & Laboratory Assistant, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2007)