Peter E. Driscoll
Staff Scientist

Research Interests

Earth’s core and magnetic field; planetary interiors, thermal history, dynamos; exoplanets; tidal dissipation and orbital migration


M.S., Physics and Astronomy, San Francisco State University, 2006
M.A., Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Science, Johns Hopkins University, 2008 & 2010

Contact & Links

  • 202-478-8827 | fax: (202) 478-8821
  • pdriscoll at
  • Earth and Planets Laboratory
    Carnegie Institution for Science
    5241 Broad Branch Road, NW
    Washington, DC 20015-1305
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Publications
  • Personal Website


Peter Driscoll received his Ph.D. degree in Earth and planetary science from Johns Hopkins University in 2010. He was a Bateman postdoctoral fellow in the geology and geophysics department at Yale University from 2010 to 2013, and has since been the planetary interiors and evolution postdoctoral fellow in the NASA Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

His research interests focus on the thermal and magnetic evolution of the Earth.  Topics he has worked on include the thermal evolution of the interior, dynamics of the core, polarity reversals of Earth’s magnetic field, magnetic-limited atmospheric escape, coupled surface-interior volatile cycling, the divergence of Earth and Venus, and the internal dynamics and detectability of terrestrial exoplanets.  

Much of Driscoll's research is driven by the questions: what makes the Earth a unique planet? He says Earth is unique in that it is the only planet that has maintained a strong magnetic field, plate tectonics, and surface liquid water over most, and possibly all, of its history. What is it about Earth’s interior that has allowed these complex phenomena to occur? How do they work? Are they connected in any way?

At DTM, Driscoll will use large-scale numerical simulations to investigate the coupling of the mantle and core, and explore how this coupling is manifested in paleomagnetic and tectonic observations. In particular, he will investigate how the evolution of the geodynamo over the last 500 million years is related to convective cycles in the mantle, the growth of the solid inner core, and changes in rotation. He plans to investigate the process of magnetic polarity reversals by comparing numerical dynamo simulations to geomagnetic observations and to push towards more realistic Earth-like dynamo simulations. He will investigate the dynamics of rocky exoplanets by coupling internal and orbital evolution models to make predictions for their detectability.