Welcome to the Molecular Geochemistry Laboratory

If chemistry is the central science, then geochemistry is the central science as applied to understanding the natural world around us.

Geochemists seek to answer questions relating to the evolution of life on Earth and how metalloenzymes may have evolved, the chemistry of the oceans and how they are affected by global warming, the interplay between flora, fauna and the environment in chemical terms, how pollutants interact with soils and minerals, and how radioactive waste can be securely stored for millennia. We do this by connecting the very big — mountains — with the very small — atoms and molecules, and the very fast — fundamental reactions — with the often very slow — weathering

If you share our passion for understanding and explaining how the world works — join us! To find out about opportunities in our laboratory, contact one of the group leaders: Erik BjörnJean-François BoilyMichael Holmboe, C. André Ohlin, Andrey Shchukarev, and Staffan Sjöberg.

The Holmboe group is offering 1 PhD student position and 1 postdoc fellowship!

Our planet has more organic carbon in its fragile soil layers than all the carbon on land and atmosphere combined. The Holmboe group is now hiring a PhD student (4 year minimum) and offering one postdoc fellowship (2 years) for two separate but similar projects focusing on the molecular interactions between natural organic molecules and mineral surfaces.

In order to focus on the molecular scale, the research will utilize various experimental methods and molecular dynamics simulations  (extracting for instance free energy profiles as shown below), and why not also virtual reality!


To apply for the PhD position, please visit this link.

To apply for the postdoc fellowship financed by the Kempe Foundations, please visit this link.


Bubble paper out!

Using microelectrodes, we revealed a gateway for ion transport in bubbles pinned on hematite and on gold!

You can read our paper “A gateway for ion transport on gas bubbles pinned onto solids” here.
You can read the story behind the paper here.

Harizi V, Nha TPT, Berisha A, Boily JF. 2021. A gateway for ion transport on gas bubbles pinned onto solids. Commun. Chem. 4, 43.

Yesilbas publishes Science Advances paper on Martian cryosalts!

This is the first paper from Merve Yesilbas‘ VR- and NASA-supported work with Janice Bishop at the SETI institute.

Bishop JL, Yeşilbaş M, Hinman NW, Burton ZMF, Englert PAJ,  Toner JD, McEwen AS, Gulick VC, Gibson EK, Koeberl C. 2021. Martian subsurface cryosalt expansion and collapse as trigger for landslides. Sci. Adv. 7, eabe4459.

You can find the paper here and press releases on CNN and SETI

Using soil analogues, the group showed how cryosalts can trigger landslides on Mars. This suggests the martian environment is still dynamic and active today, which is important for future human exploration on Mars. A portion of the experimental work was done in JF Boily’s laboratory.

New paper detailing DNA-hotspots in sediments by H. Kanbar and Holmboe

Hussein Kanbar and Michael Holmboe has collaborated with EMG/UMU Prof. Göran Englund and PhD student Fredrik Olajos, on the faith of (ancient)DNA adsorbed onto minerals in 10,000 y old Swedish lake sediments. Their first publication is now available online at: doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2020.104728.


  1. Lake sediment geochmemistry plays a significant role in the sorption.
  2. Clays were the main sedimentary components to host DNA.
  3. Both clay-mineral and organo-clay complexes govern the sorption of DNA.
  4. A DNA infrared fingerprint was determined in sediments via spectral subtraction.
  5. DNA-hotspots in lake sediments were revealed using geochemical approaches.

Boily Group Publishes Science Advances Paper on Water Films!

Using an AFM tip sensitive to water, we tracked the spatial distributions of water films on minerals. We thank the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for access to its facilities through a User grant.

You can find our paper here:
Yalcin SE, Legg BA, Yeşilbaş M, Malvankar NS, Boily JF. 2020. Direct observation of anisotropic growth of water films on minerals driven by defects and surface tension. Sci. Adv6, eaaz9708

In the news: Smart Water Magazine, Phys.org, Yale U., UmUNews Beezer, aitnews, Today Headline, Forskning.se, My News Desk

Boily paper out in Nature Communications Chemistry!

Using vibrational spectroscopy and simulations we resolved the enigmatic surface chemistry of ferrihydrite. Three ways to learn more about our work:

  1. The paper: Boily JF & Song X. 2020 Direct identification of reaction sites on ferrihydrite. Nat. Comm. Chem. DOI 10.1038/s42004-020-0325-y​.
  2. Nature’s blog site, with the story behind this paper.
  3. Goldschmidt conference: PDF of virtual presentation. Also a Q&A session on June 23rd.