The College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University contains a diverse group of faculty and students working in the general areas of igneous petrology, igneous geochemistry, ore geology and volcanology. Collectively this group is known as the VIPER group (Volcanology, Igneous Petrology and Economic geology Research). VIPER faculty are responsible for wide ranging research and teaching (graduate and undergraduate) programs in the various VIPER topics as well as related areas such as marine geology, tectonics, planetology, and analytical geochemistry. VIPER students also conduct research in all these areas. The combination of a large group of faculty and students, together with ready access to coffee (the Beanery coffee shop sits just minutes away), ensures that VIPER group is dynamic, productive and an exciting place to be.
VIPER faculty and students base much of their research on active field studies, conducted both on land and at sea. Thus at any given time members of the VIPER group might be gainfully engaged in mapping and sampling volcanic units in our local Cascade range or farther a field in south America or Indonesia; they might be dredging rocks from the deep underwater along the mid ocean ridge system or drilling into the ocean crust on an IODP cruise; or they might be mapping and sampling granites and associated ore deposits in Nevada or Chile. These are just some examples of the ongoing field-based activities of members of the VIPER group.
Faculty within the VIPER group also help operate a number of state of the art analytical facilities to support VIPER research, many of which run collaboratively with other groups on the OSU campus. Facilities that are most used by VIPER faculty and students include the Cameca SX-100 electron microprobe, an ICP-MS facility for measurement of trace element and isotopic compositions – including in-situ laser ablation capacity, 40Ar-39Ar dating facilities, noble gas isotopic analysis facilities, hand held XRF instrumentation, and XRD analysis. There are also a variety of sample preparation facilities including sample polishing, rock crushing, mineral separation, computer controlled microdrilling, as well as several research grade petrographic microscopes with digital image capture and a 1-atm experimental laboratory. All in all VIPERs have access to a wide range of tools for studying igneous rocks and ore deposits in great detail.
Geological employment among past students includes positions in exploration geology, environmental geology, academic positions and high school science teaching. Others are employed by the Gemological Institute of America, the National Park system and the U.S. Geological Survey.