Welcome to Roberto Bugiolacchi' s website

Education and Research Experience

Undergraduate degree: BSc. Honours in Planetary Science at University College London (UCL), UK. These studies were broadly focused on understanding the physical characteristics of planetary bodies. The fields of study covered mainly geology, atmospheres, and related physical subjects (physics, etc.). During my degree programme I quickly developed a ‘taste’ for remote sensing data interpretation and produced most of my undergraduate work analysing both terrestrial and planetary satellite images (with the help of Fugro NPA and other agencies).

Teaching qualification: Following graduation, I enrolled in a UK post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) course and qualified as a (British) secondary school (high-school equivalent) science teacher. I worked part-time as a science supply teacher during my PhD studies followed by a few years as Head Tutor in an educational organisation for disadvantaged young people, organizing and co-ordinating teaching staff and resources, teaching Multimedia, Music Technology, and English. I was also involved in running and engineering Sound Base’s professional music recording studio.

PhD studies: Soon after my PGCE, I was offered a PhD research position at UCL focused on the analysis and geochemical interpretation of multispectral images of the Moon from the Clementine mission. This was part of a broad research project coordinated by Dr. Paul Spudis at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), and Prof. John Guest in the UK (UCL). My PhD thesis produced two first-author peer-reviewed papers (see reference list in CV).

Postdoctoral research experience: Subsequent to completion of my PhD programme, I was offered a postdoctoral research position at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS)in Germany. I have been employed now at Max Planck for three years analysing and interpreting multispectral data from the SIR and SIR-2 instruments that flew to the Moon on the SMART-1 and Chandrayaaan-1 spacecraft respectively. I also designed and produced all the content of the official SIR-2 website, including logos and science content.

I am delighted to announce that at the beginning of July 2012 I joined the MoonZoo team as a Leverhulme-funded post-doctoral researcher. This appointment will be for three years and will be based in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck College and the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.

During this post-doctoral appointment I will be mainly responsible for addressing the science objectives set out in the MoonZoo article published in Astronomy and Geophysics in April 2011


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For the first time my planetary geology course becomes available to all. If you represent an educational establishment please do get in touch to discuss the terms of delivery. The course is divided into a minimum of 11 lessons each between 1.5 and 2 hours each (CLICK HERE for INDEX), plus eventual Q&A time. It is backed by 112 high-quality PP slides. See here for EXAMPLES

The course is highly original in so much that it starts from the very fundamental questions that are hardly ever addressed in standard geology books or lessons, such as: “Why are all terrestrial planets so silicon/oxygen biased? Why, despite the bewildering number of rock types in the universe, they appear to be made up of mostly just a handful of basic minerals? What are meteors made of and where do they come from? What type of geological worlds are we likely to find in exoplanets? And so on…”. Please do check the table of contents for a better idea... I have also included a few examples of the didactical material.

The course is scientifically thorough with a mix of physics, chemistry, and planetary science to stimulate the mind of the listener and promote further research and investigation.

Finally, the course can be delivered online (Skype, etc.) or, obviously, in person. Its content can be also easily adjusted in terms of length, scientific emphasis and level.

Also delivered in Italian on request.

WHAT LIES BEHIND THE ROCK - A Brief Introduction

The aim of this course is to offer a clear and logical journey through our material world and in particular, what 'lies beneath our feet'. The science of the physical history of planet Earth (geology) stems from the early studies and classification of rocks and gems, however, with time it expanded and evolved into a multidiscipline scientific endeavour branching, for instance, into physics (geophysics), chemistry (geochemistry), and tectonics.

In the last few decades geology has also taken on an interplanetary role, starting with the Moon, thanks to the returned materials from the US and USSR lunar missions, and also meteorites, understood to represent fragments of extra-terrestrial bodies (asteroids, minor planets, and even major ones, like Mars).

Remote sensing missions and telescopic observations have expanded our geological horizons even further through the analysis, comparison, and interpretation of the electromagnetic and isotopic signatures of surface materials from remote worlds, including extra-Solar System ones.


Any given rock cannot be adequately ‘explained’ without zooming in towards its fundamental physical properties, elemental and mineralogical composition, and zooming out to its origins, assembling and evolution, including its morphological, tectonic, planetary, and universal placement.

Each terrestrial rock, for instance, also bears witness of a complex dynamic history interrelated to the particular physical conditions on our planet, including its evolving biosphere. So, where do we start? As they say, the best starting point is the beginning, and this is where we will commence our journey from.

First we will need to understand where ‘everything’, i.e. what is tangible and accessible to our senses, comes from. It may come as a surprise to some that the principal (elemental) ingredients of most solid matter in the Solar System (planets, asteroids, etc.) can be narrowed down to a few key elements, principally a gas (oxygen), and a couple of metals (silicon and iron). But why these three in particular? We know that most of the universe is made up of the gases hydrogen and helium…
.... to be continuted...
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