Dara Laczniak - School of Earth and Environmental Sciences - Queens College

Dara Laczniak

Lecturer (Doctoral)
Planetary Geology

Jefferson Hall, Room 210S
Phone: 718-997-3330

Research Interests:

I am a planetary geologist whose research interests lie in the field of planetary materials. As such, my research aims to address questions about the origin and evolution of our solar system by studying rock and regolith samples from other planetary bodies that we now have here on Earth, such as meteorites and returned samples. I am particularly interested in understanding how space weathering processes, including micrometeoroid impacts and solar wind irradiation, alter the chemistry, microstructure, and spectral signature of airless planetary bodies which lack a protective atmosphere (e.g., asteroids, the Moon, and Mercury). To investigate the effects of space weathering on different planetary surface compositions in various environments, my work takes a two-pronged approach that involves (1) studying naturally space-weathered samples that have been collected from airless planetary surfaces and brought back to Earth by space exploration missions and (2) performing simulations of space weathering processes in the laboratory on analog materials. I also rely on a combination of electron microscopy and spectroscopic analytical techniques to carry out detailed characterizations of these samples.


Teaching Philosophy:

As a geoscience educator, it is my responsibility to ensure that all students—regardless of their major—get the most out of the courses I teach. I believe that students should come away with not only a sound understanding and appreciation of Earth processes but also a confidence in their ability to ask questions, think critically, and learn new things. These are transferable skills that will benefit students regardless of their career trajectory and that are necessary to become scientifically literate global citizens. Accomplishing these teaching goals requires that I maximize student engagement and cultivate a welcoming classroom environment. Therefore, in all my courses, I clearly define learning objectives and classroom expectations, implement a variety of active learning activities and scaffolded projects, present concepts in multiple formats, and, overall, emphasize the process of learning rather than the product of learning. Remaining flexible in the classroom and responding to the uniqueness of every student cohort are also important to me and, as such, I try to offer ample opportunities for student feedback throughout each semester. This not only helps me monitor student comprehension but also allows my students to showcase what they have learned, engage in self-reflection, and have influence over the design of the class.

Rooted in my own theater background, I am particularly passionate about science communication. At the end of the day, science is most powerful when it is understood and appreciated by both the experts and the general public. To develop the verbal and written communication skills of my students (and encourage creativity in the classroom), I leverage a range of communication formats—including social media platforms, news articles, podcasts, videography, music, and graphic design—in course assignments. ​