John G. Spray (Professor)

Tier 1 Canada Research Chair: Planetary Materials / Director: Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC)

John Spray portraitPhD University of Cambridge
BSc University of Wales at Cardiff

Current Research Interests

My primary area of interest involves high-strain rate deformation processes in natural and synthetic materials.  This includes investigating the effects of shock-wave materials interactions and high-speed slip.  Natural samples are studied through researching impact cratering processes and products on Earth, the Moon and Mars, including meteoritic material from the terrestrial planets, asteroids and comets.  Specific interests are high-strain rate behaviour related to hypervelocity impact, including friction- and shock-induced melting and solid-state shock transformations in rocks and minerals.  The evolution of planetary regoliths is also being investigated (especially for the Moon and Mars).  The characterization of impact structures involves detailed field studies of terrestrial examples (mapping, sampling and remote sensing), especially at Sudbury (Ontario), as well as other Canadian impact structures (e.g., Charlevoix, Manicouagan) and others abroad.  One of my primary aims is to understand the modification stage of impact crater formation, especially through studies of impact-generated radial and concentric fracture and fault systems that facilitate slumping and central uplift formation.  Field studies are typically followed by lab-based work involving analytical electron microscopy (microprobe and scanning electron microscopy), major, trace and REE chemistry and radiometric dating (e.g., (U-Th)/He, Ar-Ar and U-Pb collaborative work).  More recent research directions include the development of new technologies to facilitate exploration in remote terrains on Earth and for planetary applications (e.g., non-contact analytical techniques for rovers).  Since 2009, I have expanded my interest in planetary impact to include ballistics R&D in relation to defence, aerospace and space applications.  This is manifest in the establishment of an off-campus ballistics capability, the High-Speed Impact Research and Technology Facility, financed by industrial, federal and provincial contributions, the aim of which is the testing and development of impact-resistant materials for the protection of humans and infrastructure.


As a Canada Research Chair since 2006, my teaching load is reduced but includes / has included the following:

  • GEOL 2131 Mineral Sciences, now Earth Materials I (1986 - ongoing)
  • GEOL 2703 Field School (1987-2005)
  • GEOL 3131 Part II: Metamorphic Petrology (1986-2006)
  • GEOL 4112 Advanced Metamorphic Petrology (1986-2006)
  • Various graduate courses (ongoing)

Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) Homepage

Post DoctoralGraduate, and Undergraduate Opportunities

PASSC Publications

Earth Impact Database

Manicouagan Impact Research Program

Contact Information