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Magdalene College Cambridge

Professor Michael Carpenter

Professor Michael Carpenter is a former President of Magdalene College. He is a Professor of Mineralogy and Mineral Physics at the Department of Earth Sciences.

Professor Carpenter was an undergraduate at Magdalene (1972-75) and stayed on to study for a PhD in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology. He was then a NATO Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University for two years. This was followed by a three-year spell split between Cambridge and Arizona State University. He was appointed to a Lectureship in Earth Sciences in 1983, became Reader in Mineralogy and Mineral Physics in 1994, and was promoted to Professor in 2001.

Professor Carpenter is a member of the Mineral Physics Group at the Department of Earth Sciences, researching into the structure, stability and physical properties of minerals. He writes: "Natural minerals represent a resource, not only in the conventional form of raw materials for the mining industry but also as templates in the search for new materials with specific technological applications. Their astonishing diversity of structures, chemistry, and properties provides a database which could not be reproduced experimentally.


Research Interests

  • Phase transitions in minerals and functional materials (magnetics, ferroelectrics, ferroelastics, multiferroics, unconventional superconductors).

Professor Carpenter's research, in the field of mineral physics, seeks to address the question of how the structures of minerals adapt to changes in their environment, in terms of pressure, temperature, stress, etc. both instantaneously and over geological time. In particular, many minerals undergo spontaneous changes in structure, or 'phase transitions', at discrete pressure and temperatures, and these can have dramatic consequences for their thermodynamic, optical, electrical, magnetic or other properties. An underlying theory of the factors determining how these properties evolve, due to a Russian physicist, L D Landau, is being explored using experimental techniques such as transmission electron microscopy, calorimetry, X-ray diffraction, vibrational spectroscopy and Resonant Ultrasound Spectroscopy. Potential applications of this work are in the fields of geology, physics and materials science.


1975: B.A., University of Cambridge, 1st Class Honours in Mineralogy and Petrology (Natural Sciences).

1979: Ph.D., Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, University of Cambridge.

1979: M.A., University of Cambridge.

2001: Sc.D., University of Cambridge.

Professional Affiliations

  • Member Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Life Fellow Mineralogical Society of America
  • President of the European Mineralogical Union (2016-2021)