2017 Yale Mineral and Gem Symposium - Speaker Bios


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Stefan Nicolescu, PhD

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Yale College – Birthplace of American Meteoritics


Backpacking in the Carpathians, and avid reading of books on mountaineering, volcanoes, and history of science where the catalysts that drove Stefan Nicolescu to graduate with a degree in Geology and Geophysics from Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania.


After the collapse of communism in Europe, and following a less than two-year stint as research scientist in South Africa, Stefan enrolled for graduate studies with the University of Gothenburg, Sweden where he obtained his doctoral degree in Mineralogy and Petrology. He moved to Washington State University (Pullman, WA) for postdoctoral studies. He was hired afterwards as research faculty by the Yale Department of Geology and Geophysics. He left Yale for a four-year intermezzo at the University of Arizona in Tucson, but returned to New Haven, CT for his current position with the Yale Peabody Museum.


With over 60 publications to his credit, Stefan’s professional interests cover skarn and meteorite silicate mineralogy, trace element and isotope geochemistry applied to mineral deposits, U-Th/He thermochronology, and the history of science.



Herb Obodda

Developing and Dealing – Reminiscences of Opening Pakistan's Gem and Mineral Markets


"The British did quite a lot of exploration in the northern areas of that part of India that is now Pakistan, mostly in the early 1900's to 1918 or so. After that the whole subject went quiet and when I first visited Pakistan as part of my Afghan business I found that very little to nothing was known about the mineral riches to be found there.


I made the acquaintance of Arifullah, a wonderful person in the jewelry trade. On my trips over the next few years Arifullah and I visited countless little villages in the area around Peshawar and the Tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Travel up north to the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Himalayas and Karakorums was extremely difficult before the opening of the Karakorum Highway in 1979 but we managed to get to Gilgit and some of the other town and villages in the Northern Areas a number of times to scout for any mineral activities. There were none but we spoke to a great number of people and spread the word that minerals were good and would bring them a good income."



Alexander G. Schauss, PhD, FACN, CFS

AIBMR Life Sciences

Aesthetics, Colors, and Rarities of Thumbnail-Sized Minerals


A visit to the American Museum of Natural History in 1955 started a life long interest and love of mineralogy for Alex Schauss. Dr. Frederick Pough (1900-1999), then-curator of the museum offered Alex the opportunity to volunteer for eight years, thus providing him the opportunity to handle thousands of specimens while gaining an appreciation for the importance of provenance, aesthetics, colors, and rarities.


As there was little room in the dormitory at the University of New Mexico when he arrived from New York City to store large mineral specimens he collected over the years, he found thumbnail specimens offered a size able to build a manageable collection of diverse species from around the world, and at an affordable price.


A clinical trial Alex organized in 1969 led to a call from Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling, himself an avid collector of minerals, who mentored him toward a career in public health and nutrition. Since then he has held positions at four institutions up to the rank of clinical professor and become a noted food scientist and author of over 200 scientific publications, 37 chapters and 23 books, in the fields of nutrition and botanical medicine, including Minerals, Trace Elements and Human Health, and Zinc and Eating Disorders, and as a CEO of a life sciences company.


Having visited the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show annually since 1967, he and his wife, Laura, decided to move from Tacoma, Washington, to sunny Tucson, Arizona, where Dr. Schauss soon joined the Department of Geoscience at the University of Arizona, as a Research Associate, and became a Member of the University of Arizona’s Gem and Mineral Museum Advisory Board, and chair the museum’s fund-raising committee. He believes strongly in the role museums play in preserving the heritage that might otherwise be lost to time itself. For this reason, he applauds the opening of the David Friend Hall of Gems and Minerals in Yale University’s Peabody Museum, and the opportunity to share highlights of his mineral collection at this symposium.



C.R. “Cap” Beesley


Collecting the Classics™, Part II, The Gems of Burma, From Mandalay to Mogok


C.R. “Cap” Beesley is an internationally known gem consultant and gem sciences specialist. Currently, he serves as President of Analytics, a research and development firm focused on consulting in gem related fields. He is also Chairman of Gemcore’s, Gemstone Standards Commission, a non-profit educational organization that is dedicated to developing consumer protection programs for gemstone buyers and collectors.


Formally, Cap was president and founder of American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), a New York based, international gem testing facility, specializing in the determination of country of origin, gem enhancement detection, and the quality assessment of ruby, emerald and sapphire. During his time with the laboratory, Cap served for more than 10 years as the primary gem consultant to the United Nations Minerals Branch, establishing gem laboratories, training facilities and teaching gem courses at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan, the University of Kashmir and the Geological Survey of Malawi, Africa.


Previously, he was a senior staff member of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where he was responsible for implementing GIA’s 6-month resident program on the East Coast, while simultaneously developing the model for their first colored stone grading course, in addition to directing the GIA’s gem investment program. Currently, he is honored to serve on Yale’s Leadership Council for the Peabody and as Chairman of the Museum’s Mineral and Gem Advisory Board.



David Mustart, PhD

San Francisco State University

Origin of Mineral Deposits that Produce World-Class Collectible Specimens of Native Gold and Native Silver


Dr. David Mustart
Professor of Geology, San Francisco State University.
B.Sc. in Geology, University of British Columbia (1965).
Ph.D. in Experimental Petrology at Stanford University (1972), with Richard H. Jahns on the origin of pegmatites.
Worked for industry and the Canadian Geological Survey in precious metal mining districts in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
For the past 45 years, professor of geology at San Francisco State University, teaching courses in mineralogy, geochemistry and ore deposits.
Research has concentrated on hydrothermal processes of mineral deposition, currently focusing on origin of deposits of native metals, particularly native gold, native silver and native copper.



Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, PhD

University of Granada (Spain)

The Mineral Beauty of the Most Extreme Terrestrial Hydrothermal System: Dallol, Ethiopia


Dr. Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, Research Professor at the National Research Council (CSIC) of the University of Granada (Spain), received his PhD from Complutense University (Madrid, Spain). Professor García-Ruiz is an expert in the crystallization of minerals, drugs and proteins, and founder of the Laboratory of Crystallographic Studies, and of the Crystallization Factory in Granada. His main area of research is in the field of self-organization and self-assembly in biological and geological materials, applied to early life detection, the origin of life, and the synthesis of new materials. He is currently leading the European Research Council project Prometheus. Professor García-Ruiz is the author of the book The Mystery of the Giant Crystals on the spectacular Naica (Mexico) gypsum crystals, and of the script of the homonymous documentary film. In 2014 he organized the exhibition Crystals: A World to Discover within the framework of the UN promoted International Year of Crystallography. Professor García-Ruiz is dedicated to promoting a citizens-oriented culture of science.




Duncan Keller

Mineralogical Curiosities from Connecticut's Deep Crustal Rocks


"I examine the rocks and minerals that formed in the roots of ancient mountain belts to look for clues about how plate tectonics worked in the past and made the rocks we can find today. My PhD work focuses on building a better understanding of how the textures in minerals, especially exsolution textures, can broaden our ability to pinpoint what conditions rocks experienced, and thus, build our capacity to unravel ancient plate tectonic events. In my research I use a variety of techniques from electron microscopy to thermodynamic modeling to understand the behavior of minerals within the Earth."


Duncan is a PhD Candidate with Yale professor Jay Ague (Henry Barnard David Professor of Geology & Geophysics and YPM Curator of Minerals and Meteoritics). He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology from Colgate University in 2015. He has previously worked as a student curator for Colgate’s Ten Eyck-Burr Mineral Collection and currently volunteers in Yale’s collection under the watchful eye of Dr. Stefan Nicolescu.



Leo Shimonaka

Digital Learning at Yale: Developing the David Friend Hall App


Leo Shimonaka is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College from Tokyo, Japan. While he has worked in different roles, his primary experience is in mobile technologies and visual-inertial odometry. In Leo’s freshman year, he won the grand prize at a hackathon, and since then has worked as a software engineer for Apple. At school, he works on many side projects, like the one for David Friend Hall, to experiment with upcoming technologies and unfamiliar software stacks. Leo is excited to graduate this spring and join Apple as a full time engineer.





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