Thayer School of Engineering

The three main research areas at the Thayer School of Engineering ( are engineering in medicine, energy technologies, and complex systems. Thayer faculty work on many aspects of ice physics and engineering. Thayer supports advanced instrumentation to characterize the microstructure and mechanical and electrical properties of ice and icy materials, including scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy and electron backscatter diffraction capabilities, confocal Raman spectroscopy, and micro-computed X-ray tomography.

With funding from NSF's Office of Polar Programs, the Army Research Office, and others, Ian Baker studies the microstructural properties and processes of snow, firn, and ice. Understanding the pore structure in these materials is important to the correct interpretation of radar data used for mass balance calculations and for the development of accurate climate models. Baker and his colleagues are currently investigating whether and how impurities in ice cores, which are important for the analysis of past climates, have changed or moved and how their presence may affect interpretation of the ice core record.

Rachel Obbard, a research scientist, is adapting advanced materials characterization techniques for the study of brine channels in sea ice—she is currently working with ice cores from the Healy-Oden TransArctic Expedition (HOTRAX) and the Amundsen Sea.

Erland Schulson and Victor Petrenko study the behavior and modeling of ice as a brittle material and problems related to ice adhesion to surfaces such as airplanes, buildings, and roads.

Since the mid-1980s, Dartmouth has collaborated with the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL). Don Perovich, a research geophysicist at CRREL, works on sea ice geophysics and the interaction of sunlight with ice and snow. He and IGERT graduate student Chris Polashenski are researching seasonal ice melt processes in the Arctic due to climate change.

Thayer is also home to NSF's Ice Drilling Program Office (IDPO), which is led by Mary Albert and collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of New Hampshire. IDPO is responsible for scientific leadership and oversight of ice coring and drilling activities funded by NSF. Albert's research centers on transfer processes in porous media, including air-snow exchange in polar regions, and understanding the physical properties of firn for ice core interpretation. Albert is chief scientist of the Norwegian-U.S. Traverse of East Antarctica Project and has conducted many studies on snow and atmosphere interaction at Summit Camp in Greenland. She is also a co-investigator on studies of the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) ice core in Greenland, aimed at extending our climate record to the Eemian interglacial period, which began about 130,000 years ago.