Geologist

Geologist Dr. Michael Wise in a white t-shirt leaning against a rock surface.
Dr. Michael Wise studies pegmatite, a kind of rock that produces many large crystals. Photo courtesy of Jennifer C. Kelly.

Dr. Michael Wise is a geologist and an expert on pegmatites, which are coarse-grained igneous rocks rich in the minerals quartz and feldspar. A native of Smithfield in southeastern Virginia, Michael first got interested in mineralogy as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, when rock-hunting trips to central Virginia and North Carolina strengthened his interest in this type of rock. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Manitoba in Canada in 1987 and joined the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences one year later.

He has traveled widely in the Appalachian mountains of the eastern United States to study pegmatites, which are good sources of not only semiprecious gemstones such as aquamarine, rose quartz, and topaz, but also rare elements, such as beryllium, lithium, and cesium, with important economic applications. His research has also taken him to Nevada, Colorado, California, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. In the laboratory, he uses a scanning electron microscope, cathodoluminescence microscope, X-ray diffractometer, and other tools to investigate the composition, crystal structure, and evolution of pegmatites.