UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Susan Brantley, professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, was selected to receive the inaugural Dr. Hubert Barnes and Dr. Mary Barnes Professorship in Geosciences.
“I was thrilled to be picked for this professorship,” Brantley said. “A professorship allows steady funding to work on a topic over a long time through the ups and down of the fickle funding world. Professorships allow creativity to happen.”
The endowed professorship was established with a $1 million gift from Hubert Barnes, distinguished professor emeritus at Penn State, and his late wife, Mary Barnes, who was a research assistant at the University.
“Hu Barnes is one of the most well renowned and highly regarded geochemists in the world,” Brantley said. “I hope I can live up to his example of excellent science.”
Brantley is a world leader in studying the chemical, physical and biological interactions that occur between rock, water, air and living organisms in the thin layer of earth known as the critical zone. The critical zone extends from the tallest trees to the deepest groundwater and the complex reactions that happen there impact life-sustaining resources like food production and water quality.
She has received numerous awards for her research, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and most recently was elected to the 2021 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Brantley received a bachelor of arts in chemistry in 1980, a master of arts in geological and geophysical sciences in 1983, and a doctorate in geological and geophysical sciences in 1987, all from Princeton University.
“Susan Brantley is an exceptional scientist and leader, and this professorship is a well-deserved recognition,” said Lee Kump, John Leone Dean in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and professor of geosciences. “It is fitting that Hu Barnes, another remarkable geoscientist, and his late wife Mary made this position possible. We thank the Barnes family for their tremendous generosity.”
Hubert Barnes joined Penn State in 1960 and retired as a distinguished professor in 1997. In his retirement, he has continued his research and often works from his office in the Deike Building. He was named an honorary alumnus in 2016. Barnes received his bachelor of science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950 and his doctorate from Columbia University in 1958.
Mary Barnes, who died in 2017, was a research assistant at Penn State who studied radioactive waste disposal and cement chemistry. She received a bachelor of science from Swarthmore College in 1948 and a doctorate in chemistry from Penn State in 1966.
“I was genuinely happy to have both Hu’s and Mary’s names as part of this professorship,” Brantley said. “I was the first woman to get tenure in geosciences at Penn State, so having ‘Dr. Mary Barnes’ in the name feels right. And when my doctoral adviser, David Crerar, was a doctoral student, he was advised by Hu Barnes. This truly brings my career full circle.”