Digging deep to drive diamond discoveries: Fellowship brings brilliant researcher to campus to study diamonds

    UAlberta welcomes newest Banting Fellow Suzette Timmerman, a postdoctoral researcher studying diamonds.

    By Katie Willis on May 31, 2019

    When it comes to understanding the carbon cycle, there’s no better place to start than inside a diamond.

    Earth’s deep carbon cycle is a process that circulates carbon from the surface deep into Earth’s interior, and back again. It can have a significant impact on both the surface and mantle chemistry. And with carbon storage an ever-increasing challenge, deepening our understanding of this cycle is only growing in importance.

    Suzette Timmerman, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Münster in Münster, Germany, is coming to the University of Alberta as part of the prestigious two-year Banting Fellowship. Timmerman received her PhD from the Australian National University. Timmerman’s research will focus on tracing Earth’s deep carbon cycle, examining super-deep diamonds to track carbon mobility beneath Earth’s surface.

    “Through geochemical and geochronological analyses of superdeep diamonds and their inclusions, I hope to make major advances in our understanding of the timescales of carbon mobility in the deep Earth,” explained Timmerman. “The fellowship will also help me to develop as a researcher—not only through support to carry out an innovative project but also by expanding the skills around it in teaching, supervising students, grant writing, and collaborating with the industry in Canada.”

    Timmerman will be working with international expert in diamond research Graham Pearson, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Henry Marshall Tory Chair, andCanada Excellence Research Chair Laureate.

    “Postdoctoral fellows play a key role in maintaining a vibrant atmosphere in any lab and in mentoring graduate and undergraduate trainees,” said Pearson. “To win a Banting fellowship requires many attributes, including leadership roles outside academia. Suzette is an accomplished musician, in addition to being a superb scientist. Our diamond research group is very much looking forward to her arrival.”

    The University of Alberta is uniquely equipped to conduct this type of research, with nearly $30 million invested into analytical facilities that allow probing the age and origins of diamonds at the micro-analytical level.

    In 2010, the Government of Canada established the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship program to attract and develop the world’s best and brightest post-doctoral researchers in Canada. Two fellowships were awarded at UAlberta in 2019, including one in the Faculty of Science.