Abraham J Padilla, PhD


As a geoscientist, I am interested in the physical and chemical evolution of magmas and materials 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 investigate 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 elements (those found in trace amounts such as 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 at 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 the Austurland and Suðurland regions of Iceland.

In my current role as a Materials Flow Analyst with the Geological Survey my job is to study the supply chain of materials that are critical for society, the economy, and national defense. Using the Materials Flow Analysis (MFA) quantitative framework I am better able to understand how critical materials flow across the global economy, from their origins as raw mineral resources extracted from the Earth (production), to their transformation into mineral commodities, their use in the manufacturing of finished products, their end use by the consumer market, and finally their disposal as waste or recovery through recycling at the product's end of life. Recently, I also served as a Mineral Commodity Specialist  for the niobium and tantalum mineral industries. In that role, I analyzed 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 in order to better understand the global flow and supply chain of niobium and tantalum materials.



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 (Materials Flow Analyst), U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2020–present)
  • Physical Scientist (Mineral Commodity Specialist), U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2018–2020)
  • 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)