Faces of the LIB: Stefan Peters

“I bridge the gap between living and non-living nature.”

Stefan Peters in the mineralogical exhibition at the Museum der Natur Hamburg. © LIB, Gerisch



For Stefan Peters, stones are important storage of information. Because they tell stories from the early days of the earth. The geoscientist is involved in the current discussion on the energy transition when he works on mining critical minerals such as lithium. Since May 2022, Stefan Peters has been head of mineralogy at the LIB and is responsible for the associated collection, research and exhibition.

What does nature mean to you?

I see people as part of nature. To perceive nature is a reminder of that. I enjoy exploring my own environment and understanding the relationship between humans and the cosmos. And that’s why I work in the field of meteorites, cosmochemistry, and evolution of the early Earth.

What is your research focus?

I am an isotope chemist, I look at the composition of rocks to better understand their formation, or the conditions and processes that created these rocks. These can be processes in the early solar system and planet formation, or an interaction between solid Earth, atmosphere, and the oceans. These interactions are stored in the stones. You can tease them out through isotope studies. I think it’s exciting to be the first to measure things and find connections that haven’t been understood in this way before – to find structures in nature that have always existed but haven’t been understood in this way.

What is it like to run a museum?

I am very happy to have followed in the footsteps of Jochen Schlüter, he built everything up with a lot of love. It is very nice to work with it. At the same time, it takes a lot of time to get to know it all. Every day, new questions and tasks come my way. That takes the most time, I hardly get to research or do the collection work at the moment. Here I also have many tasks like answering requests for research material. Often children come to me who have found stones on vacation and want to know what they are. This touches me very much and reminds me of my own childhood.

What led you to mineralogy and geology?

I think it was a natural curiosity I had as a boy. I collected stones with enthusiasm. I often went on vacation with my parents to the Alps. At some point, my father took me to a small club where stones were collected. I was about eleven at the time, and it was my first time in a quarry. I found that very impressive. That’s how I ended up studying geology. Actually, I wandered from geology into geochemistry and then moved more and more away from mineralogy. I worked more and more chemically and physically, analyzing gases and liquids and working more and more abstractly. Now to come back to mineralogy is very nice, it closes a circle. At the same time, I like working more in the field of physics and chemistry at the LIB and building a bridge between mineralogy and biology via the laws of nature.

Which mineral appeals to you the most emotionally?

That changes. At the moment it’s a magnetite, an iron oxide from an iron ore deposit. It’s sitting on my desk. Some of these iron ore deposits are two billion years old. Through isotope measurements, I have determined that oxygen in this mineral was once part of the atmosphere and must have been in it for about two billion years – it’s very hard to imagine. It’s very rare to find oxygen from the atmosphere in rock. It took a while to understand how that happened. I find this story very exciting. And that’s why I particularly like magnetite at the moment.

Where do you want to go with the museum?

I would like to bring the LIB themes in the museum a bit further forward and thus also make a connection with the new museum – in the form of a trial exhibition. I want to show the link between living and non-living nature more clearly.

What would you have become otherwise?

At the beginning of my geology studies, I also considered dropping out. I had found that I had other interests that were not being served by my studies. At that time, I was also very interested in humanities subjects, such as philosophy and the Dutch language. I then tried to compensate for the lack of input by writing poems in the geosciences, which we then also published in the student council journal. But I had also once considered studying biology and was also interested in astronomy and astrophysics. I think I’m on the right track as a researcher.

Where do you see your role within the LIB?

I can bridge the gap between living and non-living nature, and I am relatively alone in doing so in the LIB. I am concerned with the connection between the geosphere, atmosphere hydrosphere and biosphere in today’s world and also in the geological past. I am used to thinking in very large physical and temporal scales, I think that is sometimes helpful when looking at processes in nature.

What aspect of your daily work is your highlight?

Right now it’s the content, the scientific work. Collection-wise, I’m happy when I discover beautiful pieces. And in museum work, I especially like it when we can inspire children.

What advice do you have for young mineralogists starting their careers?

My advice to students who want to pursue a career in science: Try to be okay with rejection because there is an incredible amount of rejection in a scientific career. Rejections of papers, proposals, etc. And be critical of your own work and also of other scientists and scholars. An important area in mineralogy right now is to work with critical minerals. This research is important in the transition to a CO2-neutral economy – this is a huge area of work that is important for humanity.

What do you want people to associate with the LIB in ten years’ time?

Of course, the things that currently already speak out of the LIB. For my part, I would like to bring the geosciences forward and make them more visible. We have an insanely beautiful mineralogical collection that should be seen by people. We work on topics that are very important to the evolution of life. Life is one part of the whole concept, most of it is attached to non-living nature. I would like to make that more visible.


Dr. Stefan Peters
After completing his master’s degree in geosciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and his accompanying work at EASA, the native Dutchman moved to Bonn to do his doctorate on meteorites at the University of Cologne.  He then spent almost seven years at the Georg-August University of Göttingen as a temporary academic councilor and completed a Humboldt Fellowship in St. Diego. Before Dr. Stefan Peters started at LIB in May 2022 as Head of Mineralogy and Museum of Nature – Mineralogy, he worked for one year in Reykjavik, Iceland, at the University of Iceland in the field of geochemistry.


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