Dr. Robert Downs

Curator Emeritus

Dr. Robert Downs Photo
  • Bob has been a mineral collector since he was seven years old, and grew up wanting to be a mineralogist and a museum curator. He got there, and did it by getting a B.S. in Mathematics at the University of British Columbia,  M.S. and Ph.D. in Mineralogy at Virginia Tech, and a post-doc at the Geophysical Lab of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. His research includes crystallography of minerals and their variations at pressure, temperature and chemistry. He built the RRUFF project with Dr H Yang and Mike Scott, to facilitate the identification and characterization of minerals by miniaturized instruments. He, with Bob Hazen and others, plays a meaningful role in the development of the field of the statistical analysis of mineral evolution and ecology, which became the basis for the main exhibit hall in the new museum.  He currently is a co-investigator for NASA on the Mars rover Curiosity, identifying the minerals on Mars with miniaturized equipment. Along the way he obtained mineral museum experience as an assistant at UBC with Joe Nagel, at the National Collections of the Geological Survey of Canada with Dr Gary Ansell, and at VT with Dr Susan Eriksson. As curator of the UA Mineral Museum he increased its statue and profile by raising endowments and facilitating many significant donations of pieces and collections. He also introduced a museum research program that is particularly successful because of the museum’s location in Tucson, the world center for mineral collectors. But a missing piece was the location of the museum, in the heart of the UA campus, but often with little parking and severe congestion. It is very exciting to see the new museum and its potential. Best location in Tucson, fantastic facilities, and great support by the University, Pima County and the State of Arizona, giving something back to the mineral community. Bob retired in the spring of 2021, and looks forward to being a museum visitor.