Planetary Ice

Deposits of ice on Earth and on other planets can help us to understand their history and predict their future. Earth’s snow and ice cover is important to global climate, tropospheric chemistry, and marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We examine the microstructure of all types of planetary ice, and its contents.

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Sports Equipment

Sports give us opportunities to collaborate, to compete, and to reach for our personal best.  Sports engineering leverages state-of-the-art technology to maximize human efficiency, performance, comfort and safety. We examine the role of materials in equipment design, and help to bring an understanding of engineering materials to the public.

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Paper Preservation

While paper has been the fundamental medium for recording and communicating human ideas over the past 2000 years, it is easily damaged by something as common as water. We are applying several complementary chemical and microscopy analysis techniques in order to better understand the underlying chemical and structural processes at work when water weakens, warps, and stains paper. 

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Microplastics are small (<5 mm) pieces of plastic that come from the mechanical breakdown of larger plastic debris, from health and beauty products, and from the manufacturing waste stream. They accumulate in marine habitats - on shorelines, the sea surface, the seabed, and in biota in all of the world’s oceans. Their presence in the Arctic is an example of the global nature and far-reaching consequences of marine plastic pollution.


Rachel W. Obbard is a materials scientist and engineer and Assistant Research Professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She holds a BSc. in Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines, an MSc. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of New Hampshire, and a PhD. in Engineering from Dartmouth College. She held a postdoctoral fellowship with the British Antarctic Survey’s Atmospheric Chemistry Group in 2007-2008 and leads field campaigns in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Obbard does grant funded research on natural porous materials including ice sheets, sea ice and cellulose and teaches sports engineering, ethics, and writing in science. She is Secretary of the International Sports Engineering Association. 

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