Serena Formenti

PhD Geological Sciences

EOS Main 305

Governed by varying chemical and physical properties, Earth’s mantle cycles all materials of the lithosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere over millions of years. Mantle plumes, such as the one responsible for the formation of the Hawaiian Islands, originate from the deep mantle and provide invaluable compositional and structural information about the Earth, thousands of kilometers deep.

At the Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR), I employ geochemical methods to study the fine scale evolution and structure of the Hawaiian mantle plume. Currently, I am working with samples from the Northwest Hawaiian Ridge, an area comprised of volcanoes produced during a significant period of mantle plume strengthening, and samples from the Lanai volcano, representing a chemically extreme magmatic end member. My research aims to address 1) how and why the Hawaiian mantle plume became the most active of its kind on Earth and 2) how the internal structure of the plume preserves chemical signatures from the deep mantle.

To complete my research, I am trained in geochemical methods and the use of mass spectrometers for trace element analysis and lead, strontium, neodymium and hafnium isotope analyses. This includes chemical sample preparation (eg. sample digestion, cation exchage chromatography) in ultra-clean (class 1000) laboratories and analysis via high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS), multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS), and thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS).

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Left to Right: 1974 Mauna Ulu lava flow in Volcano National Park, Hawai'i // Clean lab work at the PCIGR // Goldschmidt 2022 Conference in Honolulu, Hawai'i

My love for the geosciences is rooted in its huge scale. I am constantly finding myself feeling overwhelmed, yet fascinated, with the geologic timescale. Learning about the world and the rocks around me brings me excitement, working through 4.6 billion years of dynamic chemical, biological and physical history. I like being able to look around me and to explain what I am seeing and how it came to be.

As a teacher, I aim to share contagious passion for the Earth sciences. 

At McMaster University, I held five positions as a teaching assistant in introductory Earth science courses. Following, I produced two seasons of the Backyard Geology Podcast series for the Geology Podcast Network, available here. Currently, at UBC, I am the head teaching assistant for the graduate and undergraduate geochemistry courses, working with Dr. Dominique Weis and Dr. Nichole Moerhuis to deliver content. 

University of British Columbia, Doctor of Philosophy in Geological Sciences (2021 - Present)

  • Laboratory Research Assistant at the Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
  • UBC Cycling Team rostered athlete
  • Fellowships and Scholarships: NSERC CGS-M fellowship ($17,500), British Columbia Graduate Scholarship ($15,000), Endeacour Silver Corporation Scholarship ($5000)
  • Grants: Lipman Volcanology research grant, GSA graduate student grant

Queen's University (2021)

  • Student researcher funded by NSERC-USRA

McMaster University, Honors Bachelor of Science in Integrated Sciences with a concentration in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Summa Cum Laude (2017 - 2021)

  • McMaster University Concert Band first flute
  • Canadian Blood Services Campus Volunteer Lead
  • Integrated Science Society Peer Mentor

The Integrated Science ("iSci") program is a research-based degree in which the undergraduate class of 60 undertakes a variety of group research projects while exploring six different science disciplines and the synergy existing between them. For more information on this program click here.

Diplôme d'études en langue française, Niveau B2 (2017)

Formenti, S., Weis, D., Harrison, LN., Garcia, MO. & Jicha, B., Abstract and Poster Presentation: Geochemistry of Northwest Hawaiian Ridge Basalts: Insight into the Evolution of the Hawaiian Mantle Plume from ~32 - 8 Ma, American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting. San Francisco, CA 11-25 Jul 2022.

Formenti, S., Weis, D., Garcia, MO, & Harrison, LN. Abstract and Poster Presentation: Geochemistry of Northwest Hawaiian Ridge Basalts: Insight in the Evolution of the Hawaiian Mantle Plume, Goldschmidt. Honolulu, HI 17-22 Jul 2022.

Formenti, S., Peace, A., Eyles, C., Lee, R., & Waldron, J. (2022). Fractures in the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada: Distribution, connectivity, and geohazard implications. Geological Magazine, 159(11-12), 1936-1951.