A-team Quarterly Update – First Quarter 2020

It has been a strange time for the research group, ending with the new norm of social distancing and lockdown in the UK, but it has nevertheless been a successful quarter. This period has also seen the end of two major SoS RARE and HiTech AlkCarb consortia, and the process of developing the legacy of the projects. It has also seen the progression of two of our staff to Lectureships and the commencement of another consortium (TerraSAgE).

A-team Staff

We welcomed two new staff to the A-team over the last few months on short contracts. David Morrison is a PhD student in Computing sciences who has been helping us with developing the websites for the legacy of HiTech AlkCarb. Lucy Mathieson went to Greenland in 2019 with a student group and started working with us on the digitising of data for HiTech AlkCarb, particularly the Nunarsuit Sample suit that we acquired from Professor Ian Parsons of Edinburgh University. Adrian helped collect these samples in 1988 and so it is excellent that these are now part of the St Andrews collection.

Adrian and Dr Tim Kinnaird interviewed alongside co-worker Professor Sam Turner of the University of Newcastle for a PDRA to work on the a luminescence dating project as part of the TerraSAgE: Terraces as Sustainable Agricultural Environment consortium. Our new appointment, Dr Aayush Srivastava, will work with Tim and is due to start as soon as is practicable.

Dr Anouk Borst and Dr Nicky Horsburgh both started as postdoctoral research fellows for the HiTech AlkCarb project, Anouk with responsibilities for data archiving and Nicky with oversight of the sample collections and maps. I am delighted to say that both Anouk and Nicky were also awarded lectureships at St Andrews University.

St Andrews’ two newest lectureship appointments.


Chithambo ML, Kalita JM & Finch AA (2020) F and F+-band radioluminescence and the influence of annealing on its emission spectra in Al2O3:C,Mg. Radiation Measurements, 106306.

PhD Completion

Congratulations to Dr Nicky Horsburgh who completed her PhD on the potential for luminescence to be used in the smart sorting of minerals prior to processing. Her work involved detailed spectroscopic analysis of the major rare earth-bearing ore minerals and determining whether their luminescence was characteristic enough to allow ore minerals to be identified on a conveyor belt. Her thesis defence took place on the cusp of UK and Norwegian coronavirus lockdown and unfortunately external examiner Professor Henrik Friis was unable to attend the viva in person and had to skype in. Despite the challenges, Nicky passed her viva with flying colours.

Post viva refreshments and meal….


Mountain Pass Mine

Adrian and Nicky visited Mountain Pass mine in California to bring them up to speed on her work from her PhD on smart sorting of ore. Mountain Pass is the world’s largest rare earth mine outside China and we were following up on a visit that we both had there in 2018.

Tucson Mineral Fair

It has been a long-time ambition of Adrian’s to go to Tucson mineral fair. Fortunately, our visit to Mountain Pass meant that we were able to drive for a few hours from California to Arizona to take part. We met up there with HiTech AlkCarb participants Ed Loye (e-Tech Metals) and Professor Jindřich Kynický from Brno in the Czech Republic.

Our purpose for the visit was to try to source rare mineral standards and obtain samples for outreach displays. HiTech AlkCarb will have a cabinet in the Bell-Pettigrew Museum of Natural History in St Andrews and it is our intention to include material about critical resources and fluorescence in minerals. We will also supplement our teaching materials in the St Andrews outreach programme GeoBUS.


VMSG January 2020, Plymouth

The A-team presented two oral presentations and two posters to this year’s VMSG in Plymouth.

Rooks CJW, Finch AA, Clarke AJI, Scheerer DA, Wright AH (2020) Aillikite Diatremes and the Early Stages of the Gardar Rift System.


Hutchison W, Finch AA, Boyce AJ, Stueeken EE, Marks MAW and Friis H (2020) The sulphur isotope evolution of magmatic-hydrothermal fluids.

Murphy AJ, Finch AA (2020) Ultramafic Lamprophyre on Tuttutooq Island, Gardar Province, S Greenland.


MDSG January 2020, Natural History Museum, London

MDSG this year clashed with VMSG but Anouk represented us there.

Borst AM, Finch AA, Siegfried PR, Bambi A, Tchimbali G, Dos Santos A, Lopes E, Eugenio A, Jeremias E and Azevedo S (2020) Looking for hi-tech metals in Angola: the Nejoio alkaline complex.

Beard CD, Wall F, Finch AA, Hutchison W, Borst AM, Broom-Fendley S, Goodenough KM and Siegfried PR (2020) Geomodels for HiTech materials in alkali-silicate & carbonatite systems. 


Anouk’s paper on rare earth substitution in the ore mineral eudialyte was run as a highlight research paper by the Rare Earth Industries Association in their January 2020 Newsletter.

In January, Adrian did a public lecture for the Polar Academy – a charity involved in giving young people experience of Greenland expedition. The talk was about research in Greenland based in Fife since the time of Fridjhof Nansen, who was rector of St Andrews University in the 1920s. It gave insights into the type of work carried out currently in Arctic terrains such as Greenland.

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