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Advanced Terra Testing

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ATT SHeffern

Sarah Palaich Heffern, PhD

Geosynthetics Division Manager/Chemistry Coordinator

Doctor of Philosophy, Geochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, 2016
Master of Science, Geochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, 2013
Bachelor of the Arts, Physics and Astronomy, Vassar College, 2009

With ATT since 2018, Sarah serves as the Geosynthetics Division Manager in addition to coordinating the chemistry testing in the soils division. She assures the quality of the testing and reports in the Geosynthetics Division and operates both geosynthetics and chemistry under the standards outlined in ISO 17025.

Geotechnical Background

Sarah has been immersed in science since her undergraduate degree in Physics and Astronomy. She earned her PhD at UCLA studying carbon-bearing minerals under the high pressure and temperature conditions found in planetary interiors using Diamond Anvil Cells, Raman spectroscopy, and high energy x-ray and neutron diffraction techniques. These projects led her to a variety of major laboratories including Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories as well as the European Synchrotron Radiation Source in Grenoble, France.

Upon completion of her PhD, Sarah worked as a physics and chemistry teacher in Metro Denver before finding her place at ATT. With ATT she has worked extensively in the soils division, where she gained experience with geotechnical index testing as well as triaxial shear and permeability testing, and the geosynthetics division. In 2020 Sarah transitioned to Geosynthetics Division Manager, where she assisted ATT with its GAI-LAP Accreditation. Her wealth of material science and geochemistry knowledge supports her work in both the Geosynthetics Division and the soils chemistry testing. .

Beyond the Lab

Beyond the geotechnical, Sarah is an avid figure skater. With over a decade of coaching experience and a lifetime on the ice, she finds the ice to be a second home. While completing her PhD at UCLA, she helped found the UCLA Figure Skating team. She still competes as an adult and cannot imagine a life without the ice. When she is not skating, she can be found on any variety of adventure with her husband, Rob, or reading a young adult fantasy novel at home with her over-sized, half Maine Coon cat, Bongo.


Palaich, S. (2016). Carbon in the Deep Earth: A Mineral Physics Perspective. UCLA. ProQuest ID: Palaich_ucla_0031D_14615

Sarah E.M. Palaich, Craig E. Manning, Edwin Schauble, Abby Kavner; Spectroscopic and X-ray diffraction investigation of the behavior of hanksite and tychite at high pressures, and a model for the compressibility of sulfate minerals. American Mineralogist ; 98 (8-9): 1543–1549. doi: https://doi.org/10.2138/am.2013.4384

Sarah E.M. Palaich, Robert A. Heffern, Michael Hanfland, Andrea Lausi, Abby Kavner, Craig E. Manning, Marco Merlini; High-pressure compressibility and thermal expansion of aragonite. American Mineralogist ; 101 (7): 1651–1658. doi: https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2016-5528.

F.A. Caporuscio, S.E.M. Palaich, M.C. Cheshire, C.F. Jové Colón; Corrosion of copper and authigenic sulfide mineral growth in hydrothermal bentonite experiments. Journal of Nuclear Materials; Volume 485, 2017, Pages 137-146, ISSN 0022-3115, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2016.12.036

Sarah E.M. Palaich, Robert A. Heffern, Anke Watenphul, Jason Knight, Abby Kavner; High-pressure compressibility and phase stability of Mn-dolomite (kutnohorite). American Mineralogist ; 100 (10): 2242–2245. doi: https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2015-5095


WAQTC-Embankment & Base Testing Technician

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