Leigh Royden is a professor of geology and geophysics and the chair of the Program in Geology and Geochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the processes that control plate tectonics, continental collision, mountain building, and deformation of the crust and upper mantle. Her recent research efforts focus on subduction and collision processes in the central Mediterranean region (Italy and Greece) and the eastern Tibetan plateau.
During her tenure as a Radcliffe fellow, Royden will investigate how subduction processes control and organize regional and global patterns of the tectonic plates and how the global tectonic system may evolve through time. This work is based on mathematical models that describe the fluid motions and stresses within the mantle surrounding the sinking plates and the stress coupling between subducted lithosphere, unsubducted lithosphere, and the mantle asthenosphere. The goal of this research is to understand which elements exert the most fundamental controls on the organization of plate tectonic systems and, ultimately, why the surface of our planet looks the way it does.
Royden has an AB in physics from Harvard University and a PhD in geology and geophysics from MIT. She is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a senior fellow of the Geological Society of America, a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (formerly the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts), and a recipient of the Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America.