STEM Shoutout: Dr. Mousumi Roy

Women in STEM award winner will study effects of magma on continental plates


Dr. Mousumi Roy, an associate professor at UNM’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is among the 2020 Women in STEM winners for her proposal to study continental plates.


The Women in STEM awards are hosted by Advance at UNM in collaboration with the UNM Office of Academic Affairs. The WIS awards, now in their fifth year, have totaled more than $266,000 to date. 


Roy’s proposal, “Destroying Continental Plates: The Role of Thermal and Chemical Disequilibrium During Melt-Rock Interaction,” will focus on how continental plates are affected when there’s magma rising through a plate.


“What we are trying to understand is when you have magma rising through the plate, what are the physical and chemical changes that happen and how does it affect the plate,” Roy said. “Does it weaken it? Can it cause it to be destroyed? Can it cause it to change its chemistry permanently?”


Roy’s research focuses on applications of physics and math to geologic problems, and she says she has always been interested in how Earth formations work.


“I like volcanoes and thinking about magma. I also like plate tectonics, it’s something that growing up, like many kids, I wondered about the Earth and how mountains and volcanoes form. All of those things go into this work,” Roy said. “I grew up in the Philippines, I spent a lot of time there and every weekend we would go visit the Taal volcano. It’s something I have been interested in for a long time.”


The award will allow Roy to support her studies by being able to buy a more powerful computer to do the work and also support her PhD student who helps with research.


“For me, it’s really nice to have affirmation that applying physics and math to the natural world is powerful,” Roy said. “It’s nice to know that people who are not in my field are interested in knowing more about how volcanoes and tectonic plates work.”