Frank S. Spear
Dept. Earth & Environmental Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy NY, 12180
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
B.A., Amherst College
Office: 1W04, JR Science Center
Lab: BC01 JR Science Center
Phone: (518) 276­6103


I enjoy teaching a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses including mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, field seminars, phase petrology, geochemistry of groundwater systems, and computer applications in geology. My teaching goals, whether at the graduate or undergraduate level, are to teach the student to analyze and understand different types of problems while helping to build confidence in his or her own abiliy to solve these problems.



My research group is focused in two major directions in metamorphic geochemistry.

Studies of crustal evolution

A major focus of my research group over the past three decades has been on the development of new techniques for the interpretation of metamorphic petrogenesis. These studies involve modeling mineral reactions, textures, and chemical zonation in both major and accessory phases. The goal of this work is to construct pressure-temperature-deformation-time histories that can be used to interpret the tectonic evolution of a terrane. We have applied these techniques to areas in the Alps, New England, southern Chile, the Mojave desert, British Columbia, the Adirondacks of New York, and the Cyclades Blueschist Belt of Greece.

Current field projects are underway in

MetPetDB: A database for metamorphic geochemistry

The field of metamorphic petrology involves the collection of large amounts of data including sample characterization, field and thin section descriptions, photomicrographs of phase assemblages and reaction textures, SEM (backscatter secondary electron images of thin sections, X-ray maps depicting the distribution and zoning of elements in phases, cathodoluminescence images of phases such as zircon or quartz to reveal trace element zoning, as well as analyses of whole-rock and mineral chemistry and isotope abundances. Managing such large quantities of data is a large effort and preserving these data for the future is not yet routine except for the small amounts that see their way into publication.

MetPetDB (Metamorphic Petrology Database) is an NSF-funded project involving collaboration between metamorphic petrologists and computer scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an international working group. The goal is the development of an informatics system that will prove to be a valuable resource for both the preservation of valuable data as well as serving as a platform for new, innovative research directions. The database can be accessed here:

and a summary of published articles currently uploaded into the database may be examined here:

More details on our "Current Research" page....

Graduate Students

Software and Publications

I have published a book on metamorphic phase equilibria and several computer programs to perform calculations of interest to metamorphic petrologists. Click below to link to pages describing these: