MMGM is Closed. We'll reopen Wed at 10 AM

The Lab

Science happens here.

The William "Skip" Simmons Research Laboratory

The William “Skip” Simmons Research Laboratory at MMGM is led by a world-class team of scientists and researchers from Maine and around the globe. Through the use of cutting edge technology and ground-breaking research, the lab is expanding the fields of mineralogy, petrology, pegmatology, and cosmochemisty every day.

Research Team

Skip is the Director of the Mineralogy, Petrology and Pegmatology Research Group (MP2) at the MMGM, and emeritus professor of minerology at the University of New Orleans, where he taught mineralogy and petrology for 42 years. He has published over 400 papers, including six books, fifteen book chapters, nine encyclopedia articles, and two patents. He has conducted field research on pegmatites in the US, Russia, Brazil, Madagascar, China, Scandinavia, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi. Skip is a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, and the new mineral “Simmonsite” is named in his honor in recognition of his work on granitic pegmatites and their mineralogy.

Alexander, a.k.a. “Owl,” is the Experimental Chemist and Researcher for the William B. Simmons Research Laboratory at MMGM. He specializes in granitic pegmatites and their minerals. Throughout his career, Owl has done extensive research in Brazil, Madagascar, Namibia, Nicaragua, and a number of European countries. He has also collaborated with researchers across the world, contributed to many academic papers, and has a number of new mineral descriptions. From writing and reviewing manuscripts on all things minerals, rocks and meteorites, to consulting with museum visitors on their mineral discoveries, every day is different for Al in MMGM’s lab.

Karen is part of the MP2 Research Group at MMGM. Her principal area of research includes the petrogenesis of pegmatites in Oxford County, Maine, crystallization dynamics of pegmatites, and the geology of gem pegmatites. She is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and taught at the University of New Orleans in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for over 20 years. She is the publisher of Rubellite Press, which recently published the second edition of Pegmatology: Pegmatite Mineralogy, Petrology & Petrogenesis. The phosphate mineral Karenwebberite is named for her.

Universidad del Pais Vasco, Bilbao, Spain

Encar holds a Ph.D. in geology, is a professor of mineralogy and petrology, and has been researching pegmatitic rocks for 32 years. Encar has contributed to over 100 publications, has written over 110 communications to congresses, and has given talks in Argentina, Portugal, Germany, US, Russia, France, Norway, Morocco, and Spain. She is a guest editor of numerous international minerology publications, has peer-reviewed numerous publications and research projects, and has described the new mineral, “Zavaliaite.”

Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Michael is a mineralogist in the Department of Mineral Sciences at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His research focuses on the mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry of granitic pegmatites to better understand the geological processes responsible for the genesis and evolution of granitic pegmatite melts. Mike has several decades of field-based experience studying pegmatites and has long been active in projects related to the classification of pegmatite types, the regional mineralogical and geochemical patterns of large pegmatite populations, and the exploration of critical minerals associated with pegmatite deposits. In addition to his research program on pegmatites, Mike is also highly active in education and outreach activities and is heavily involved in the management of the Smithsonian’s Mineral and Gem Collections.

Explore the Lab

The MP2 Research Laboratory houses instrumentation that provides the foundation for active mineralogical research, and opportunities for scientific investigation, analysis, and publication.


Used for the analysis of major, minor and trace elements down to 10s of ppm, this instrument allows mapping of the distribution of elements in 2-D as well as line scans in a polished specimen. Additionally, imaging in several modes is a major aspect of the instrument, and images can be acquired in secondary electron mode, backscattered electron mode, and in characteristic X-ray mode.

This instrument is used for measuring lattice plane spacing as a means of identifying crystalline specimens. Only small amounts of sample are needed, and cell edge dimensions can also be calculated from the collected data.

This spectrometer is used for quantitative measurement of many elements, especially light elements like beryllium, lithium, and boron, which are very difficult to analyze otherwise.

This microscope is used for petrographic work on thinsections, mineral ids, crystallization sequences, alterations, replacements, and other varied uses.

This instrument is used to vaporize a small amount of sample (down to 1 micron in width) and turn it into plasma, which is then fed into the ICP-MS. The LIBS module is for full elemental coverage including lithium, boron, beryllium, hydrogen oxygen and fluorine.

This instrument is the analytical part which can detect elements down to the ppt concentration (parts per trillion) and it will permit quantification of isotopes, critical for age determination for example. Many of the uses will take time to achieve as is the case with any new instrument.

This instrument provides quick, non-destructive identification of materials via their Raman shift properties.

This machine prepares petrographic thinsections for analytical purposes.

The diffractometer is used to measure lattice plane spacings in crystalline materials, as well as for identification, and unit cell parameters.

Join Our Newsletter

Discover the magic of minerals and gems! Subscribe to our newsletter below.