Faculty and Staff

Howell Bosbyshell Howell Bosbyshell, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 205
Phone: (610) 436-2805
Email: hbosbyshell@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Field Geology, Geophysics, Structural Geology

Dr. Bosbyshell's research is concerned with the tectonic and thermal evolution of mountain belts, with an emphasis on developing a modern tectonic interpretation for the Central Appalachians. By combining detailed mapping with structural and petrographic analysis, he is developing an integrated thermal, baric, and kinematic record of orogenic evolution, building from the thin section through regional scales. An important component of this work is collaborative research to establish the absolute timing of deformation and metamorphism through in situ dating of monazite using the electron microprobe.

Richard Busch, Ph.D - Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 235
Phone: (610) 436-2716
Email: rbusch@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Historical Geology, Introduction to Paleontology, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Science Education Methods for Elementary Teachers

Dr. Busch's scholarly work is integrated into all of the classes that he teachers. His geologic research focuses on methods and applications of event stratigraphy for understanding detailed spatial-temporal relationships in the geological record. He and his geology students are currently studying the growth, biostratigraphy, and new species of trilobites from Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian formations of the Appalachian Basin. They also study the event stratigraphy of Ordovician and Devonian formations (including the Marcellus Shale). This includes use of a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence (HHXRF) analyzer to correlate elemental chemistry with mineralogy and rock properties and use trace metals (e.g. V, Cr, Ni, and Mo) as proxies for total organic carbon (TOC) in mudrocks. Dr. Busch works with his science-education students and area schools to develop inquiry-oriented, standards-based pedagogical strategies and curriculum materials for the Pre-K and elementary grades. He is also Editor of AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology (the most widely-adopted introductory-geology lab manual in North America, now in its 9th edition), which is produced under the auspices of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT) and published by Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Marc Gagne Marc Gagné, Ph.D - Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 229
Phone: (610) 436-3014
Email: mgagne@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Galaxies and Cosmology, Introduction to Astronomy, Intermediate Astronomy, History of Astronomy, Student Teacher Supervision

Dr. Gagné and his students study young stars and star formation, primarily through their x-ray and infrared emission. Students in his research group analyze data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope to identify newborn stars in molecular clouds, star clusters, and OB associations. With his collaborators at Swarthmore College, Penn State and the University of Delaware, his research seeks to understand the mechanisms which produce the x-rays seen from the most massive young stars.

Cynthia Hall Cynthia Hall, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 215
Phone: (610) 436-1003
Email: chall@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Geochemistry, Humans and the Environment, The Carbon Cycle

Dr. Hall teaches Environmental Geochemistry (ESS 301) and SCI 101, The Carbon Cycle, a general education science course designed for elementary education majors. Dr. Hall has conducted research on marine nitrogen cycling, specifically examining the rates and pathways of denitrification, a reaction that removes biologically available nitrogen, on the continental shelf and salt marshes of Georgia. Currently, Dr. Hall is studying heavy metal contamination in Philadelphia soils. In particular, the element lead has found to be abundant in Philadelphia soils and because lead is a neurotoxin to humans, the research team is now investigating the source and fate of the lead to determine the rick for public health. The heavy metals will be measured using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer, which can detect trace metals in the ppm range in under 60 seconds. The handheld version allows samples to be analyzed in the field.

Martin Helmke Martin Helmke, Ph.D - Professor, Department Chair
Office: Merion Science Center 211
Phone: (610) 436-3565
Email: mhelmke@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Hydrogeology, Fundamentals of Soil, Graduate Seminar, Applied Soil Classification, Introductory Geology, Geology of National Parks

Dr. Helmke is a hydrogeologist with over 20 years experience as an educator and environmental consultant. Before joining West Chester University, he taught at Dickinson College, Iowa State University, Antioch College, and Directed the Geology Field Camp for Iowa State University and University of Nebraska in Shell, Wyoming. He has worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, Versar, HydroLog, Boyden Caverns, and Aquadrill. Graduate and undergraduate students are the foundation of Dr. Helmke’s research program. Dr. Helmke employs service-learning in most of his upper-level courses by encouraging his students to apply their geologic skills to assist the community with real-world, geologic issues and projects. He also serves the community alongside his students as a member of the Chester County Hazardous Materials Team, the Pennsylvania Company 2 Natural-Disaster Response Team, the Fame Fire Company, and the WCU QRS Medical Service.

Victoria Helmke Victoria Baeder Helmke - Instructor
Office: Merion Science Center 204
Phone: (610) 738-0308
Email: vhelmke@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Historical Geology, Introduction to Paleontology

Professor Helmke enjoys teaching Introductory Geology at West Chester Univeristy. She previously taught geology courses at SUNY Geneseo, University of Iowa, and George Mason University. Past research has included radiolarians and depositional environments of chert in Zimapan Mexico, and extinction and community change of Montastraea corals in Puerto Rico across the Oligocene Miocene boundary. She was also a research paleontologist and field guide at The Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Joby Hilliker Joby Hilliker, Ph.D - Associate Professor, Graduate Coordinator
Office: Merion Science Center 221
Phone: (610) 436-2213
Email: jhilliker@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introduction to Meteorology, Advanced Meteorology, Introduction to Our Atmosphere

Joby Hilliker teaches ESS 170 (Our Atmosphere) and several other meteorology courses for majors in the Geology and Astronomy Department. While studying meteorology at Penn State, Joby was a part-time television meteorologist for "Weather World", a PBS daily weather program. Joby also worked as a weather forecaster at Accu-Weather, a writer for the weather page presented in The New York Times, and taught an introductory meteorology course at his alma mater. In 2003-2004, Joby moved to Cincinnati, OH, where he worked at Cinergy Corp., a Mid-West utility company, where he developed statistical algorithms, constructed short-term energy products, and communicated weather forecasts with energy traders. Dr. Hilliker has written several research articles relating to statistical weather forecasting. His Master's and Ph.D. work focused on constructing prototype forecast systems for use in the aviation industry. One such system outputted short-term probabilistic forecasts for fog dissipation at the San Francisco Airport, while a second system aided air-traffic controllers in short-term decision-making during thunderstorm events.

Carl Jacobson, Ph.D - Honorary Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 227
Phone: (610) 436-2727
Email: cjacobson@wcupa.edu

Tim Lutz Timothy Lutz, Ph.D - Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 231
Phone: (610) 436-3498
Email: tlutz@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Humans and the Environment, Geometrics, Environmental Geology

Dr. Lutz says, "My specialty is being a generalist." As an undergraduate he designed and completed a major that combined geology, physics, history, and archaeology. As a graduate student he developed interests in models and statistics in geoscience. Throughout his 30-year career those broad interests led to published collaborative work on the ages of rocks, the movement and chemical evolution of molten rock in earth’s crust, the global pattern of earth’s tectonic plate boundaries, the pattern of reversals of earth’s magnetic field, the stability of supply of rare resources, patterns in fossil ammonite shells, the cooling history of rocks in over-thrusts, the chemistry of the mineral tourmaline, the role of mill dams in the evolution of streams, the formation of high-grade metamorphic rocks, and the locations of volcanoes and sinkholes in relation to fractures in earth’s crust. Most recently Dr. Lutz is studying topics that involve geoscience education, public policy, and sustainability, including teaching about flood risk, climate change, and using a values framework to develop thoughtful attitudes about citizenship and stewardship. President Weisenstein appointed Dr. Lutz West Chester University’s first sustainability coordinator in 2010. Dr. Lutz helped guide the University’s adoption of the College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and a University-wide assessment of sustainability.

James Maxwell James (Sandy) Maxwell - Instructor
Office:  Merion Science Center 232

Phone:  (610) 436-2240

Courses Taught: Science Methods for Grades PK-4, Student Teaching Supervision

Sandy Maxwell’s career has been rooted as an elementary teacher with his start at West Chester State College. His supervisor when he was student teaching was Ruby Jones whose name graces our WCU building. As a classroom teacher, he spent thirty years teaching third through fifth grades and four years teaching gifted students, including one year teaching gifted science classes for ten elementary schools. As an elementary teacher he has worked to integrate learning, promoting critical thinking and inquiry while helping students to make connections across disciplines. Through his constructivist approach to learning, he has specialized in designing unique science opportunities for PK-4 learners. He co-founded the Outdoor Experience environmental program which has been used as a model for a number of schools. Sandy Maxwell has been involved with a number of science initiatives involving nonprofit organizations in southeast Pennsylvania. The past twenty years Sandy Maxwell has been an adjunct faculty instructor teaching science methods courses and supporting student teachers. He was recognized by the College of Education as Outstanding Educator of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1995. He continues to help PK-4 teachers to develop essential skills and understanding of the elementary classroom by utilizing science as a catalyst for the emotional engine for learning. Sandy is also a freelance watercolorist and illustrator.

Daria Nikitina Daria Nikitina, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 228
Phone: (610) 436-3103
Email: dnikitina@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Geomorphology, Coastal Geomorphology, Introduction to Oceanography, International Field Studies, Introductory Geology

Dr. Nikitina’s research and teaching interests are related to Geomorphology, Coastal Geology, Holocene climate change and sea level fluctuations. She also leads a study abroad field course focused on the geology and environment of different places of interest. In the past Dr. Nikitina took students to explore the Peruvian Amazon and the Andes and the Russian Arctic. Dr. Nikitina’s background is in the systematic study of landforms and the earth surface processes that create and change them. Her current research interests include recent sea level changes along the Atlantic coast of the USA, Canada and the Russian Arctic. With a group of WCU students and collaborators, Dr. Nikitina studies the impact of rising sea levels and severe storms on the coastal systems of the Delaware Bay and New Jersey. She uses salt marsh sediments to reconstruct a geological record of past hurricane strikes along the coast. In the past she has conducted research on active volcanoes of Kamchatka and Kuril Islands. Dr. Nikitina engages undergraduate students in field research through course projects and internships.

Chris Oest Christopher Oest - Instructor
Office: Merion Science Center 225A
Phone: (610) 436-2108
Email: coest@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Our Coastal Ocean

Karen Vanlandingham Karen Schwarz, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Planetarium Director and Project ASTRO Director
Office: Merion Science Center 212
Phone: (610) 436-2788
Email: kschwarz@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Other Worlds-Other Stars, Geology of the Solar System, Intermediate Astronomy, History of Astronomy

Dr. Schwarz teaches General Astronomy and Geology of the Solar System.  She occasionally teaches Intermediate Astronomy and History of Astronomy as well.  Dr. Schwarz studies interacting binary stars, specifically classical nova explosions. She uses observations and computer models to determine the elemental abundances produced in these explosions. It is thought that novae may be responsible for some of the isotopic anomalies seen in meteoritic inclusions in our solar system and may also contribute significantly to the abundance of some isotopes of aluminum and sodium seen distributed throughout the galaxy. Dr. Schwarz is very active in informal education and public outreach.  She is the Director of the West Chester University Planetarium. The planetarium provides shows to private groups such as school groups, moms clubs, scout troops, and retirement homes.  There are also programs open to the general public.  Dr. Schwarz is also the director of Project ASTRO WCU - a program designed to improve astronomy education in the K-12 classroom by pairing up teachers with professional and amateur astronomers.

Linda Slack Linda Slack - Department Secretary, Assistant Building Administrator
Office: Merion Science Center 207
Phone: (610) 436-2727
Email: lslack@wcupa.edu

Linda Slack provides Department faculty with administrative support, in addition to assisting the Department Chair, Dr. Martin Helmke, Ph.D., with class scheduling, purchasing, budget maintenance and facilities administration. Students and members of the University community are welcome to connect with Linda as their first point-of-contact with the Department of Geology and Astronomy.

Ronald Sloto - Honorary Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 227
Phone: (610) 436-2727
Email: rsloto@wcupa.edu

Art Smith Arthur Smith, Ed.D - Associate Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 234
Phone: (610) 436-3499
Email: asmith2@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Science Education

Dr. Smith was Pennsylvania's 1975 Teacher of the Year, the 1983 recipient of the National Science Foundation's Outstanding Educator in Science and Mathematics Award for Pennsylvania, and the 1992 recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's Alumni of the Year Award in education, Dr. Smith teaches classes in geology and science education. Dr. Smith is also the recipient and consultant on Ben Franklin partnership research grants.

LeeAnn Srogi LeeAnn Srogi, Ph.D - Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 201
Phone: (610) 436-2721
Email: lsrogi@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Mineralogy, Investigating Earth Materials, and Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

Dr. LeeAnn Srogi grew up in suburban Detroit, and her earliest memories include picking out interesting stones and fossils – now she teaches the "minerals and rocks" classes in the department. She came east for college and received her B.S. in Geology from Yale University (1977) and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Pennsylvania (1988), where her Ph.D. dissertation was on the igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Wilmington Complex, Delaware, with Dr. Mary Emma Wagner. She taught at Penn, Smith College, and Ohio Wesleyan University before joining the WCU faculty in 1991. She teaches ESS 302/502 (mineralogy) and ESS 405/505 (igneous and metamorphic petrology), as well as introductory courses in geology and geological disasters. She is always interested in stimulating new ways of teaching about minerals and rocks: beyond "rock-in-a-box!" Her current research collaborations with faculty and students include the geology and tectonics of the Morgantown Sheet; the metamorphic and tectonic history of the Wissahickon Formation; and how values, emotions, and attitudes shape student learning. She has published articles in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, American Journal of Science, the Journal of Geoscience Education, as well as field guides and papers in special volumes on Appalachian magmatism and tectonics. Her non-rock interests include music (many kinds but especially classical and jazz), reading, cooking, films, nature hikes, and gardening with native plants to provide habitat for birds and insects.

Jamie Vann Jamie Vann - Instructor
Office: Merion Science Center 232
Phone: (610) 738-0598
Email: jvann@wcupa.edu

Courses Taught: The Carbon Cycle