Project Overview

Development of a spaceflight dating spectrometer

Faculty Sponsor

Jonathan Levine (


Physics and Astronomy


Professor Levine part of a small team working to build a novel instrument capable of dating rocks on the Moon or Mars as part of a future space mission.  The long-term goals of the project are to refine our laboratory prototype instrument, miniaturize it, and fly it.  We're still a way off from that, but we're making good progress. 
In the short-term, we are looking to demonstrate our instrument's capabilities on a suite of increasingly challenging samples from Earth and other planets (lunar and martian meteorites, e.g.).  Depending on travel and the ability of a student to be in-person in the COVID environment that will prevail in the summer, the role of the student will be sample preparation, data acquistion, software and algorithm development, and/or data analysis.  We generate so much data in an experimental run that so far every Colgate student we have brought on has found new patterns that have taught us to understand our instrument better. 
One particular goal for this summer is to use our instrument to date samples from northern Minnesota, where debris from the Sudbury, Ontario asteroid impact 1850 million years ago lies in the sediment.  If we can date remote impact materials on Earth, the hope is that we can do so on the Moon as well. 

Student Qualifications

The successful student will have experience using or programming in Matlab, and have an interest in learning more about lasers, meteorites, planets, and asteroid impacts. 
Except in extraordinary circumstances, the student will need to be a US national in order to comply with laws protecting space hardware. 

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (