Claire Zurkowski
Graduate Student
Phone: (410)-926-5590
Office: Hinds 525

CV in PDF format

Research interests:

The chemical composition of Earth and terrestrial planetary cores dictates the vital processes by which planetary interiors convect and generate heat. Investigating the possible compositions of terrestrial cores is therefore the subject of ongoing mineral physics experiments. Earth‘s core is comprised of iron, nickel and a smaller component of cosmochemically abundant light elements such as S, O, Si, C and H. Investigating how these iron alloys equilibrate at core conditions offers insight into the Earth‘s core composition, core-forming conditions, core-mantle interactions and the temperature profile. Many studies on binary iron alloy systems have concluded that Earth‘s core is most likely a complex system with light element contributions from all of the core alloying candidates, however few studies have investigated multi-component iron alloys at core conditions.

The purpose of my studies is to examine the chemistry occurring in multi-component iron alloys at extreme pressures and temperatures to report on the possibilities of complex thermodynamics occurring in Earth and planetary cores. I study the phase equilibria, crystal structures, and melting relations within multicomponent systems through in-situ synchrotron radiated X-ray diffraction in a laser heated diamond anvil cell at Argonne National Lab. The stoichiometries of the phases, solid solution of light elements between the phases, and the composition of coexisting solid and liquid components are determined through sample recovery from high pressure and temperature and chemical analysis of individual grains through energy dispersive X-ray analysis in a scanning electron microscope at the University of Chicago.


[2016-Present] Graduate Student at the Unviersity of Chicago (Geophysical Sciences)
[2016] B.S. San Francisco State University (Geology)


[2016-Present] Graduate Student at the Unviersity of Chicago (Geophysical Sciences)
[2016 ] Visiting Student, University of Chicago's Mineral Physics Lab
[2015-2016] Field and Research Assistant, San Francisco State University
[2015] Research Assistant, United States Geological Society, Menlo Park
[2014-2015] Research Assistant, Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory,The University of Maryland


Rudnick R.L., Gaschnig R.M., Li S., Tang M., Qiu L., Valley J.W., Zurkowski C., and McDonough W.F. (2014) Temporal evolution of the upper continental crust: implications for the mode of crustal growth and the evolution of the hydrosphere: EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

Conferences and Meetings:

[2017] Presented a talk at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
[2017] Presented a poster at the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences Annual Meeting

Conference Presentations

Zurkowski C.C., Chidester B.A., Davis A.H., Brau- ser N.M., Greenberg E., Prakapenka V.B. and Campbell A.J.(2017) Stability of the high pressure phases Fe3S2 and Fe2S to Earth's core pressures in the Fe-S-O and Fe- S-O-Si systems Abstract MR54A-07 presented at 2017 meeting, AGU, New Orleans, Louisiana, 10-15 Dec.
Zurkowski C.C., Chidester B.A., Davis A.H., BrauserN.M., Greenberg E., Prakapenka V.B. and Campbell A.J.(2017) Stability of the high pressure phase Fe3S2 up to 175 GPa in the Fe-S-O system. Abstract. COMPRES AnnualMeeting.


[2018-2021] NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
[2017] Outstanding Student Paper Award, Mineral and Rock Physics, AGU Fall Meeting
[2017] McCormick Fellowship, University of Chicago
[2016] Department Honoree, San Francisco State University
[2013-2016] Deans List, Pratt Institute, University of Maryland, San Francisco State University
[2014] Distinguished Flying Cross Scholarship
[2013] Presidential Scholarship, Pratt Institute
[2013] Valedictorian, The John Carroll School
[2013] Judith Resnik Award for Women in the Sciences
[2013] William J. Sacco Award for Applied Mathematics Scholarship
[2013] Math, Physics, and Art Student of the Year


[2018] Women in Graduate Science Student Leadership Team - University of Chicago - Geophysical Sciences representative
[2018] Physical Sciences Divison Dean's Student Advisory Committee - University of Chicago - Geophysical Sciences representative
[2017] Docent in the mineralogy and meteorite exhibitions of the Field Museum in Chicago
[2017] Math and science tutor at the Marillac Social Center in Chicago
[2016] UChicagoGrad Lab Tours (Featured Speaker)
[2016] Upward Bound Tutoring Program serving high school students of low income families
[2016] Argonne National Lab's Hour of Code volunteer at Peck Elementary School
[2016] Mentor Matching Engine mentor for high school STEM students at the Illinois Science and Technology Institute