Department of Geological Sciences
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Alumni Welcome

July 31, 2010

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences! Once again it is my pleasure to share a bit of departmental news and to thank you, our alumni, for your generous support, especially during a time of economic hardship.  

The past year has been eventful as we continue to expand our academic and research programs and move to occupy a new analytical facility.We are very proud of the growing research and teaching accomplishments of our newer faculty, the ongoing success of our senior faculty, continued improvements in undergraduate and graduate student recruitment, and the establishment of a popular departmental field trip program linked to new course offerings.  These achievements, which help actualize our mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate earth science education and research, have all been supported by your past contributions. 

In June we celebrated our second consecutive graduating class of eight seniors, the largest undergraduate senior cohort in over 20 years.  The reception for family and friends in Locy Hall was a special event for all - the personal tribute that each student received from their faculty advisor was both fun and heartfelt and I believe it will become a new departmental tradition. We extend hearty congratulations to this year’s graduates and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.  Like our undergraduate class, the EPS graduate program also continues to grow. We welcomed a total of 11 students in 2008 and 2009 and six more will join us this year. Five of the new students have already distinguished themselves by competing successfully for graduate fellowships from the EPA, NSF, NASA, and the ODP Ocean Leadership Program (Schlanger Fellowship). This is the highest number of external graduate student fellowships that the department has received during my years at NU and it is a clear sign of the quality and ambition of our graduate recruits.

EPS faculty have also continued to collect assorted accolades and awards.  Professor Seth Stein was honored with the 2010 Stephan Mueller Medal from the European Geosciences Union and elected a foreign member of the Academy of Europe based on his contributions to the study of kinematics and dynamics of plate boundaries and plate interiors.  Associate Professor Andy Jacobson was invited to Washington D.C. as one of four AGU scientists selected to communicate earth science issues to our elected representatives.  Dr. Jacobson discussed his research on Arctic permafrost and its implications for global warming.  Assistant Professor Matt Hurtgen was the fourth EPS assistant professor to be awarded the NSF-CAREER grant in the past decade.  Matt’s work on understanding the evolution of ocean chemistry and climate, with a focus on carbon and sulfur systematics, has made a tremendous contribution to the department’s research profile. Last, but definitely not least, Assistant Professor Steve Jacobsen also travelled to Washington D.C., but he went to visit the White House where he was honored by President Obama with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).  Steve was one of those selected from among the 2009 NSF-CAREER grant winners to be recognized – quite an honor!

Regarding programmatic activities, our faculty continue to develop new courses such as Instrumentation and Field Methods, which acted as a prelude to this year’s Spring Break field trip.  The class was co-taught by Assistant Chair Trish Beddows and Associate Professor Suzan van der Lee, and combined training in a broad array of instruments for geochemical and geophysical data collection.  The instruments were subsequently employed by students on the Spring Break excursion to the Yucatan, which is becoming a popular annual event for the department.  Another new course co-taught by department faculty was Sustainability: Environment, Policy and Ethics.  This course reflects department participation in the growing wave of sustainability efforts at Northwestern, as does Associate Professor Andy Jacobson’s recent student-focused project to install a near-infrared laser analyzer that will precisely measure the concentration and δ13C value of atmospheric CO2 on the Evanston campus.  Both of these activities are supported by the newly created Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), which also funds an annual Climate Change Symposium that we organize and host.  The investment that EPS has made in research and teaching related to the Earth’s climate system is clearly paying off these days.  

The remainder of our summer will be exciting as the new Integrated Laboratories for Earth and Planetary Science (ILEPS) are finally nearing completion. The analytical modules now available include Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry, Sedimentary Geochemistry, Aqueous Geochemistry, Organic Geochemistry, and Mineral Spectroscopy labs, along with a stunning Rock Preparation and Core Analysis Facility; last to come on line will be the Radiogenic Isotope TIMS-Clean Lab, scheduled for August.  Meanwhile, the plan to relocate departmental offices to the North Campus is moving forward, despite the economic downturn, and construction of our new space within the Technological Institute has commenced. We still have plans to highlight the presence of Earth Sciences in the Tech Institute by placing a significant display in the three story sun-filled atrium that will adjoin our space.  In prior letters I have requested donations for a stone sculpture of the Earth.  However, I recently learned about an interactive Earth display that is both visually stunning and highly useful as a teaching tool (see – but it is considerably more expensive than a sculpture.  I therefore continue to seek alumni help in developing sufficient funds to help purchase this display and encourage you to consider the Earth Exhibit Fund in your giving plans.  Other giving options include:

  • The Arthur Howland Fund sponsors field work and departmental field trips, which provide transformative educational experiences for our students while raising morale.
  • The Geological Sciences Gift Account underwrites many programs, including boosting graduate student stipends.
  • The L.L. Sloss Fund provides dissertation fellowships for advanced students and research funding for students in earlier stages of their studies.
  • The Seymour Schlanger Fund supports departmental awards recognizing excellence in undergraduate research.  As the number of EPS majors grows, your contribution will help keep pace in our efforts to reward outstanding academic and research accomplishments.

To select any of the above giving options, please indicate your fund preference on your check. We ask that you make your check payable to Northwestern University and mail to us using the envelope provided. Remember that we very much welcome alumni visits here in Evanston and would be pleased to give you a special tour of our growing departmental facilities.  As always, we enjoy talking with you at the GSA and AGU receptions, and hope that you will find the colorful news in the full EPS Newsletter of great interest – it will be mailed out to you in the fall.


With best wishes and warm regards from everyone in Locy Hall,

Chair's signature

Bradley B. Sageman

Professor and Department Chair




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