R. James Kirkpatrick

R.  James Kirkpatrick
  • MSU Foundation Professor
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


R. James Kirkpatrick, professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Earth and Environmental Sciences, is an internationally recognized expert in the structure, dynamics and energetics of materials of importance in geochemistry and materials applications. His cutting-edge research methods involve the combined applications of experimental solid-state NMR and other spectroscopic and analytical methods with computational molecular modeling. This multifaceted approach has provided new insights into the structure, energetics and molecular scale dynamical behavior of a wide variety of materials, including cement and concrete, clays and other layer structure materials, as well as fluid transport in shales and other rocks. He is also widely known for his work on mineral and glass structure using NMR methods and crystallization processes in igneous rocks.

Kirkpatrick received his AB from Cornell University and his PhD in geology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1972. After graduate school he worked for Exxon Production Research, was a postdoctoral fellow in geophysics at Harvard University and an assistant research geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography before becoming a faculty member at the University of Illinois in 1978. During his tenure there, he was head of their Department of Geology (1988-1997), R. E. Grim Professor (2005-2007), and executive associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (1997-2007). In 2007, he joined MSU and served as dean of the College of Natural Science until 2017.

Kirkpatrick’s extensive research has been recognized with several prestigious awards. He received the 2015 Marilyn and Sturges W. Bailey Award, the highest honor of The Clay Minerals Society. In 2004, he was awarded the Dana Medal by the Mineralogical Society of America for outstanding scientific contributions and service to the society. Kirkpatrick has authored more than 250 research publications and received the Brunauer Award for the best refereed paper on cements in 2000. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of America, the American Ceramic Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.