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Joining the academy
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) elected six geoscientists to join its
membership this year, one of the highest honors in the scientific community.
From surface to core, the new members are a diverse group.
Don Helmbergers interest in seismology started with a cruise to Alaska
the first time he had ever left Minnesota. After two weeks spent looking
at seismic data from the ocean floor, he went from particle physics at the University
of Minnesota to seismology at the University of California, San Diego.
Now a geophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., Helmberger has academically
fathered a slew of topnotch geoscientists who have followed his interests in
using seismic waves to see Earths core-mantle boundary, theoretically
and observationally. Helmbergers work has illuminated Earths inner
core, crust and upper mantle using seismology, as well as elucidating earthquake
As a young man who loved the outdoors, Raymond Jeanloz initially was not
at all studying the sciences, he says. But his first geology course at
Deep Springs College near Bishop, Calif., changed that. Now a geophysicist at
the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a professor in the Earth
and planetary science and the astronomy departments, Jeanloz looks inside Earth
through mineral experiments in the lab.
Jeanloz also has worked on National Academy projects, from his first participation
in a report on the future of geology in the mid-1980s to his current work with
the NAS committee on nuclear arms control and testing. While shuttling between
Washington, D.C., and Berkeley, Jeanloz has managed to produce cutting edge
research with his graduate students on Earths mantle, teach undergraduate
students the basics of geology, and serve as editor for a variety of publications.
Dennis Kent, according to his former adviser and now fellow NAS member Neil
Opdyke of the University of Florida, is absolutely tenacious and
a can-do person. Kent teaches and researches at Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory of Columbia University and in the geology department at Rutgers
University in New Brunswick, N.J. His field is paleomagnetism, but the last
10 papers he wrote, Opdyke says, are all on separate topics, from the magnetism
of ice cores to paleogeography. Kent has published more than 200 papers in his
Reversals of Earths magnetic pole have been a longstanding interest, specifically
to try to delineate precisely the timing, Kent says. Its
a beautifully random pattern, and impossible to predict. Among other landmark
research, the paleomagnetic data he collected from the Newark Basin with colleague
Paul Olsen helped to establish a global time scale for the late Triassic.
GEORGE H. PHILANDER
A meteorologist at Princeton University and one of the fathers of
El Niño, George Philander calls himself a child of Sputnik.
At a time when U.S. ocean and atmospheric sciences were getting a boost after
the launch of the Soviet rocket, Philander left his home in South Africa to
attend Harvard as a graduate student. He took his mathematics background and
applied it to ocean data being collected by large international programs in
the 1960s and 1970s.
The Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans became laboratories for studying oceanic
variability, he says, particularly how seasonally changing wind patterns affect
currents and waves. In one team project in the Pacific, Philander concentrated
on El Niño at a time when the phenomenon was still considered a
regional curiosity along Perus shores. That time was a wonderful
period of exploration, Philander says, before meteorology, oceanography
and El Niño became big science.
Planetary geologist and geophysicist Maria Zuber has been observing Mars since
she was 10, starting with homemade telescopes. More recently, Zuber has used
orbital laser ranging devices and radio tracking systems to look at the planet.
Now head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at
MIT, Zuber recently participated as a member of the Presidents Commission
on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, considering a program
to send humans and robots to Mars, the Moon and beyond.
Using spacecraft observations, Zuber developed models of the internal structures
of Mars, the Moon and Eros (also known as asteroid 433). Her future work focuses
on mapping Mercury, Mars and other asteroids, and her research includes theoretical
tectonic studies on Earth, Venus and elsewhere.
Dave Stevenson, who is a New Zealand citizen and was elected to NAS as a foreign
associate, is a planetary geologist at Caltech. One of his most recent papers
to make a splash was published last year in Nature: a somewhat tongue-in-cheek
thought experiment on traveling to the center of Earth (Geotimes,
Photo by Beth Coleman, Red Feather Expeditions.
But Stevensons more serious work has had a greater impact on planetary
origins and other studies. He has considered Europas ice shell and Mars
early plate tectonics, and other issues both closer to and farther from home.
He has used data from Galileo and other missions for his work, and only recently
has he become more involved in planning such surveys (for example, the proposed
Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter). Stevenson also works on the structure and evolution
of the deep Earth and the origin of the Moon.
"Challenging core ideas," Geotimes,
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