Geosciences professors elected Fellows of the American Geophysical Union

Honor among highest in Earth and space sciences

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Three faculty members in the Department of Geosciences in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences have been elected as Fellows of the American Geophysical Union for their exceptional contributions to their fields of study.

Geosciences professors Katherine H. Freeman, Andrew Nyblade and Rudy L. Slingerland are among a group of international scientists to be named fellows, which is considered one of the highest honors in the Earth and space sciences. The program, established in 1962, recognizes no more than 0.1 percent of all AGU members each year. A committee of fellows reviews the nominees, choosing scientists who have achieved eminence in their fields. This year, only 62 scientists were named fellows.

“I think it’s exciting for our students to learn that they are in the classroom with some of the preeminent geologists in the world,” said Lee Kump, head of the Department of Geosciences.

Freeman was chosen for making innovative and sustained contributions to the fields of isotopic and molecular biogeochemistry and paleoclimatology. Her research has focused on organic compounds that allow scientists to study ancient climates.

Earlier this year she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences for achieving excellence in original scientific research. She received a Science Innovation Award from the European Association of Geochemistry in 2012 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010. Before that, she received the James Lee Wilson Medal in Sedimentology from the Society for Sedimentary Geology and the Peter Schenck Award from the European Association of Organic Geochemists.

Freeman earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and master’s and doctoral degrees in geology from Indiana University.

She has been at Penn State since 1991. She was named a professor of geosciences in 2002 and served as associate head of the department from 2004 to 2009. She is also an affiliate in the college’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), and she directed the Penn State Biogeochemistry Research Initiative in Education, a National Science Foundation graduate training program, from 2003 to 2007. In addition to her research and teaching, Freeman has mentored more than 40 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Nyblade was named a fellow for making outstanding contributions toward understanding the structure and dynamics of the mantle beneath the African continent.

Nyblade’s research has focused on seismic imaging of the “African Superplume” — the largest structure in Earth’s mantle – to understand its origin and connection to continental rifting and volcanism in eastern Africa.

Much of the seismic data used by Nyblade comes from earthquake-recording stations across Africa that he installed as part of the AfricaArray initiative. Nyblade is founder and director of this initiative, which supports collaborative work in the geosciences in Africa. In addition to a pan-African seismic network, the 20-year initiative, established by Penn State, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Council for Geoscience in South Africa in 2004 includes student education, field research and a graduate exchange program aimed at training and supporting the work of geoscientists throughout Africa.

Nyblade earned bachelor’s degrees in geology and earth science education from Wittenberg University, a master’s in geophysics from the University of Wyoming and a doctorate in geology from the University of Michigan in 1992.

He has been at Penn State since 1992, when he was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. He has been a professor in geosciences since 2007 and was named an honorary professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2004. He received Penn State’s Diversity Recognition Award in 2009, and the Paul G. Silver Award from the AGU in 2012 for outstanding scientific service. He is an affiliate in EESI.

Slingerland was named a fellow for pioneering the quantitative modeling of coupled sedimentary, tectonic and geomorphic processes.

Slingerland’s work has focused on the evolution of river systems. Current projects include studying the vulnerabilities of deltas to global change; a multi-university project aimed at monitoring the behavior of deltas during storm events; and developing models of unconventional shale gas reservoirs.

In 2012, Slingerland was recognized with the G.K. Gilbert Award for Geomorphology from the American Geophysical Union. The award recognizes a scientist who has made a significant contribution to the field of earth and planetary surface processes.

Slingerland earned a bachelor’s in geology from Dickinson College and a master’s and doctorate in geology from Penn State. He served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. He has been a member of the Penn State faculty since 1977, serving as head of the Department of Geosciences from 1997 to 2003. He is an associate in EESI.

Earlier this year, one of Slingerland’s former graduate students and his wife established an early career professorship in Slingerland’s name to honor him for his work as a scientist, educator and mentor.

Slingerland, Nyblade and Freeman will be recognized during an honors tribute at the fall 2013 AGU meeting in December in San Francisco.

Last Updated January 09, 2015