Professor Claire Nichols

Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow in Earth Sciences

Claire joined the Department of Earth Sciences in Oxford in the summer of 2020 and became a Tutorial Fellow at Teddy Hall at the end of 2021.

Claire completed her undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.  After initially aspiring to be a theoretical physicist, she quickly discovered the practical side of Earth Sciences was a much better fit and particularly enjoyed field trips and the opportunities to travel to remote places. After completing an MSci in Earth Sciences, Claire remained at Cambridge for a PhD studying ‘tiny space magnets’, a type of nanoscale iron-nickel microstructure in meteorites which allows records of early solar system magnetic fields to be recovered.

Claire then moved to MIT as a Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life Postdoctoral Fellow.  During her fellowship she studied lunar rocks from the Apollo missions using a combination of astronaut field geology and laboratory techniques to recover information about the ancient lunar magnetic field.  She also led two field seasons to a remote part of Greenland to investigate evidence for Earth’s earliest magnetic field in the context of planetary habitability.  Claire joined the Department of Earth Sciences in Oxford in the summer of 2020 and became a Tutorial Fellow at Teddy Hall at the end of 2021.

Claire teaches a broad range of courses in Earth Sciences including 1st and 2nd year level igneous and metamorphic petrology, mineralogy, structural geology and geological maps, geochemistry.  She also teaches more advanced level rock and paleomagnetism and planetary science.

Claire uses magnetism as a novel tool to understand Earth and planetary formation, the environment of early Earth and planetary habitability. Earth has undergone billions of years of complex physical and chemical evolution leaving many questions about its earliest history unresolved. By interrogating the magnetic signals preserved by ancient terrestrial and extraterrestrial materials much insight can be gained as to how our solar system and planet formed and how life subsequently emerged. Claire’s research combines synchrotron and electron microscopy techniques with rock magnetism, paleomagnetism and fieldwork in an attempt to understand planetary formation and Earth’s earliest history.

Selected publications:

C.I.O. Nichols, B.P. Weiss, B.L. Getzin, H.H. Schmitt, A. Beguin, A.S.P. Rae, J. Shah “The paleoinclination of the ancient lunar magnetic field  from an Apollo 17 basalt,” Nature Astronomy, 2021.

J.C. Duarte, M. Fakhraee, D. Gürer, O. Kwiecien, C.I.O. Nichols “A dynamic planet,” Communications Earth & Environment, vol. 2, pp 1-4, 2021.

C.I.O. Nichols “Using Meteorite Magnetism to Understand the History of Our Solar System: A Decade of Progress and Upcoming Challenges,” AGU Advances, vol. 2, pp 1-2, 2021.

C.I.O. Nichols, J.F.J. Bryson, R.D. Cottrell, R.R. Fu, R.J. Harrison, J. Herrero-Albillos, F. Kronast, J.A. Tarduno  B.P. Weiss “A time-resolved paleomagnetic record of Main Group pallasites: Evidence for a large-cored, thin-mantled parent body,” JGR Planets, vol. 126, pp 1-21, 2021.

C.I.O. Nichols, J.F.J. Bryson, R. Blukis, J. Herrero-Albillos, F. Kronast, R. Rueffer, A.I. Chumakov, R.J. Harrison “Variations in the magnetic properties of meteoritic cloudy zone,” Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, vol. 21, pp. 1-14, 2020.

S. Mighani, H. Wang, D.L. Shuster, C.S. Borlina, C.I.O. Nichols, B.P. Weiss  “The End of the Lunar Dynamo,” Science Advances, vol. 6, no.1, pp. 1-8, 2020.

C.I.O. Nichols, J. Einsle, M-Y. Im, T. Kasama, Z. Saghi, P.A. Midgley, R.J. Harrison “Field-response of magnetic vortices in dusty olivine from the Semarkona chondrite,” Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, vol. 20, pp. 1-13, 2019.

C.I.O. Nichols, R. Krakow, J. Herrero-Albillos, F. Kronast, G. Northwood-Smith, R.J. Harrison “Microstructural and Paleomagnetic Insight into the Formation and Impact History of the IAB Parent Body,” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 229, pp. 1-19, 2018.

C.I.O. Nichols, J.F.J. Bryson, J. Herrero-Albillos, F. Kronast, F. Nimmo and R.J. Harrison, “Pallasite paleomagnetism: Quiescence of a core dynamo,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 441, pp. 103-112, 2016.

J.F.J. Bryson, C.I.O. Nichols, J. Herrero-Albillos, F. Kronast, T. Kasama, H. Alimadadi, G. van der Laan, F. Nimmo and R.J. Harrison, “Long-lived magnetism from solidification-driven convection on the pallasite parent body,” Nature, vol. 517, pp. 472-475, 2015.

Claire is a first point of contact when the Dean is on leave for all College welfare matters at

Where next?

Earth Sciences (Geology)

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What has Earth’s Magnetic Field Ever Done for Us?

16 Feb 2022

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