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The Earth Science Department at Rice University is currently accepting applications for an Electron Probe Micro-Analyzer (EPMA) Laboratory Manager/Research Scientist. For more information on the position and how to apply, please visit: http://earthscience.rice.edu/positions/.

The Earth Science Department at Rice University is currently accepting online applications for graduate studies. For more information, visit http://earthscience.rice.edu/academics/gradapply.html.

Current Earth Science Newsletter
(late summer 2013)

Welcome!

The Rice Earth Science Department has 18 professors on staff and a similar number of adjunct professors from the local energy industry and space science community. The department includes about a dozen post docs and staff scientists, about 55 thesis graduate students, 30 Professional Masters, 20 undergraduate majors, and 14 administrative and technical staff. We have strong connections to NASA, the Lunar Planetary Institute, and the Houston energy industry.

Department focus areas are the structure and evolution of the continental lithosphere (Earth Structure and Dynamics), the past and present evolution of the Earth's climate, surface, and environment (Earth System Science), and the physics and chemistry of fluid flow and rock-fluid interactions (Environment and Energy Resources). Research topics include the evolution of Venus, Mars and the Moon, the Earth's core, mantle, crust, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere, climate change and paleoclimate, and the genesis and migration of, and exploration for hydrocarbons.

We have a creative and dynamic faculty pursuing fundamental questions about the Earth and our environment. The Earth Science Department is ranked 25th nationally by US News and World Report, with the Rice Geophysics and Seismology Program ranked 12th nationally. Moreover, in recent years Rice geochemists have been awarded a Donath Medal, two Kuno Awards, two Clarke Medals, and two Packard Grants.

The department has a modern, aesthetically pleasing building, state of the art labs, and owns and is partner in a range of High Performance Computing facilities.

Rice is now home to the NSF GeoPRISMS office.

The Center for Computational Geophysics is one of the principal partners in the new Rice DAVinCI Visualization Center.

The Department is home to a popular Professional Masters Program in Subsurface Geoscience which trains students for careers in the energy industry.


Latest News

 

image of Dr. Julia Morgan

AGU's Paul Silver Award bestowed on Earth Science professor Juli Morgan
Honor recognizes leadership and contribution to research

Dr. Juli Morgan is bring honored with the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service. This prize is given given annually to recognize a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the fields of geodesy, seismology, or tectonophysics through mentoring of junior colleagues, leadership of community research initiatives, or other forms of unselfish collaboration in research. Dr. Morgan is being recognized for scientific leadership on many fronts including her work with MARGINS and GeoPRISMS.

The award will be formally announced at the Bowie Lecture at AGU and at the joint Seismology/Tectonophysics reception at AGU, held in San Francisco in December 2013.

AGU's description of this honor: http://www.agu.org/honorsprogram/section_fg/joint_award/.

 

image of Dr. Jeff Nittrouer

Jeff Nittrouer honored for work in Earth and planetary surface processes
Professor to present capstone lecture for focus group at AGU

Dr. Jeff Nittrouer has been chosen to receive the American Geophysical Union's 2013 Luna B. Leopold Award. This honor was established in 2009 by AGU's Earth and Planetary Surface Processes focus group to recognize a young scientist for making a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of earth and planetary surface processes. This award is given to scientists within 5 years of their Ph.D (or equivalent) degree. The award is to honor Luna B. Leopold, who engaged and nurtured young scientists throughout his distinguished career in hydrology and fluvial geomorphology.

Also, as a result of winning the Leopold Award, Dr. Nittrouer has been chosen to deliver the Robert P. Sharp Lecture at the fall 2013 AGU meeting. This is the capstone lecture for the EPSP Focus Group.

More information about the Leopold Award and past recipients is found here: http://www.agu.org/honorsprogram/section_fg/epsp/.

 

image of Dr. Rajdeep Dasgupta

Earth Science's Rajdeep Dasgupta bestowed prestigious NSF CAREER Award
Funding furthers research of deep-Earth chemistry

Rice University Earth scientist Rajdeep Dasgupta has won a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to unearth new details about processes and chemistry happening deep underground. The five-year grant, which goes to young scientists expected to have significant impact on their fields of study, will support a comprehensive look into the chemical evolution of Earth's interior. Dasgupta and his team will focus on how processes in Earth's mantle affect surface rock that dips downward over millions of years and how that surface rock interacts with the dense, coarse igneous rock called peridotite that makes up the bulk of material there.

Mike Williams' article announcing Dr. Dasgupta's award can be read in its entirety here: http://news.rice.edu/2013/03/21/earth-scientist-dasgupta-lands-nsf-career-award/.

 

image of Dr. Janne Blichert-Toft

Wiess Visiting Scholar recognized as one of top geochemists in the world
Dr. Janne Blichert-Toft announced as a 2012 AGU Fellow

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) recently announced its 2012 class of Fellows and has included Earth Science visiting professor and researcher, Janne Blichert-Toft, in this elite group. This honor is given to individual AGU members who have made exceptional scientific contributions and attained acknowledged eminence in the fields of Earth and space sciences. Dr. Blichert-Toft has been cited "for being the world's leading geochemist in the application of hafnium isotopes to the evolution of the Earth and the early solar system".

In addition to becoming AGU Fellow, Dr. Blichert-Toft recently received the CNRS Silver Medal from The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research), which is a public organization under the responsibility of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. The CNRS Silver Medal honors researchers who are only at the beginning of their rise to fame, but who are already recognized nationally and internationally for the originality, quality, and importance of their work.

More on Dr. Janne Blichert-Toft: http://perso.ens-lyon.fr/janne.blichert-toft/index.htm

 

image of Frasier Liljestrand

Earth Science undergrad receives HGS award

Houston Geological Society Undergraduate Scholarship Foundation has chosen Frasier Liljestrand to receive the Foundation's Maby scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year. This scholarship is given to the highest ranked applicant among all of the universities participating in the program.

More information on this award can be found on the Society's website: http://www.hgs.org/education_scholarships

 

image of E2I logo

Professor Alan Levander, the Carey Croneis Professor of Earth Science and director of Rice's data analysis and visualization cyber infrastructure (DAVinCI, has been named as a committee member of Rice's new Energy and Environment Initiative (E2I), a sweeping plan to support interdisciplinary research that will draw experts from every corner of the university to work with Houston's energy industry to overcome barriers to the sustainable development and use of current and alternative forms of energy. Levander said E2I will allow Rice to initiate new lines of computationally based energy-related research from seismic imaging to modeling fluid flow in oil reservoirs. It will also allow Rice to expand programs like the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology's Rice Oil and Gas HPC Workshop, which has doubled in attendance in less than five years. http://news.rice.edu/2012/09/20/rice-launches-sweeping-energy-and-environment-initiative-2/

 

image of Jianxiong Chen image of Jonathon Zhao

Rice Earth Science doctoral students, Jianxiong Chen and Xin (Jonathan) Zhao have been named the recipients of the BP Scholarship Award in Geoscience for 2012-13. The award is given based on the student's outstanding academic record and personal interview. Rob Kelly, BP Executive Sponsor for Rice University and BP Global Projects Organization Vice President of Technical Functions, and Josue Villesca, BP Campus Champion for Rice University, will honor the recipients at a special dinner to held on Wednesday, September 19th. Congratulations to the Rice recipients.

 

image of Centennial Star award

The Department is proud to announce that Bonnie L. Hoffman, Senior Technical Support Specialist/Web Coordinator, is being honored as one of 100 Rice employees chosen for the Centennial Star Award. Centennial Stars are employees who represent the best of Rice culture. Each week during Rice's centennial year, nominated staff members are recognized for their contributions to excellence, and Bonnie has been recognized for inclusion in this elite group. Congratulations Bonnie! http://news.rice.edu/2012/08/24/meet-this-weeks-centennial-stars-19/

 

image of Dr. Raj Dasgupta

Earth Science professor recognized as outstanding researcher by AGU

Assistant Professor Dr. Rajdeep Dasgupta was recently chosen to receive the American Geophysical Union's Hisashi Kuno Award, an award bestowed by the Volcanology, Geochemisty, and Petrology (VGP) Section of AGU for outstanding contributions to the fields of Volcanology, Geochemistry, or Petrology. This accolade, created in honor of Dr. Kuno, the late petrologist who was a renowned professor at the University of Tokyo, is based on the quality of publications arising from work performed up to seven years past the receipt of the AGU member's Ph.D.

 

image of Kaijian Liu

Outstanding Student Paper recognition bestowed upon seismology PhD. student
Kaijian Liu recognized by the AGU for presentation at Fall Meeting

The Seismology Section of the American Geophysical Union recently selected Kaijian Liu to receive an Outstanding Student Paper Award for his presentation at the 2011 Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California. Kaijian is a student of Dr. Alan Levander and will receive his PhD. at the May 2012 Commencement.

This recognition acknowledges Kaijian's presentation, "3-D Teleseismic Imaging of Scattered Wavefields Using Both Kirchhoff and Born Approximations," as among the best of a strong group of student presenters, setting an example for other students and the entire AGU membership.

 

image of Rice shield

Earth Science students receive Chevron fellowship awards
Scholarships benefit students in their first year of graduate study

For the fall of 2011, Rice graduate students, Jennifer Hero and Rachel Margolis were the recipients of fellowships funded by the Chevron Corporation. Additionally, Rice Earth Science student, Kate Ziegelgruber, will receive funding through an awarded fellowship for the Spring 2012 semester. Earth Science graduate student, David Mathews, is the beneficiary of Chevron fellowship funding for both the fall and spring semesters.

These students, all in their first year of studies, were selected on the basis of their academic records (grades, test scores, letters of recommendation etc.). The department is proud to recognize these students and is grateful to Chevron for its continued support of the department's educational mission.

 

image of Dr. John Anderson

Rice Earth Science professor refuses publication of report with systematic deletions
Texas state environmental agency accused of censorship relating to climate change findings

Dr. John Anderson, Rice University's W. Maurice Ewing Professor of Oceanography, charges that The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has systematically omitted all references to climate change and sea-level rise from an article he wrote about changes in Galveston Bay.

The deletions by the Texas agency are ideological and political, said Dr. Anderson. "I don't think there is any question but that their motive is to tone this thing down as it relates to global change," Anderson said. "...It's not about the science. It's all politics."

"Anderson said the TCEQ won't allow the article—written for a report by the TCEQ's Galveston Bay Estuary Program—to be published without the deletions. That, and Anderson's refusal to accept the changes, are holding up publication of The State of the Bay, a periodic report published by the program."

The rest of the Houston Chronicle article is here: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Professor-says-state-agency-censored-article-2211691.php

Additional media coverage on this issue:
UPI.com - Scientists Revolt over Texas Censorship: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/10/14/Scientists-revolt-over-Texas-censorship/UPI-60611318617220/
 
The Guardian (UK) - Rick Perry officials spark revolt after doctoring environment report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/14/rick-perry-texas-censorship-environment-report?newsfeed=true
 
New Scientist - Texas officials censored climate change report: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/10/texas-officials-censored-clima.html

 

image of Dr. Alan Levander

Houston Press' "Best of 2011" Scientific Breakthrough Award
Dr. Alan Levander and Team recognized for Colorado Plateau research

The annual Houston Press "Best of" awards are out, and Rice's Dr. Alan Levander has been recognized in the Scientific Breakthrough category.

From the Press: "The asthenosphere and lithosphere don't usually concern us, but thankfully a brainiac team over at Rice University led by Alan Levander has them on their radar. There's a huge section of land known as the Colorado Plateau; it has a "rising while it's sinking" quality that's had scientists scratching their heads for a while. Seems the bottom layers (that's the asthenosphere) are pushing up, while the top layers (the lithosphere) are sinking down..."

More details on the "Best of 2011" award: http://www.houstonpress.com/bestof/2011/award/best-scientific-and-10-breakthrough-2674712/

 

image of Kaijian Liu

Rice Earth Science Student Awarded BP High Performance Computing Graduate Fellowship
Kaijian Liu receives highly sought-after award from the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology

The Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology has awarded one of this year's BP High Performance Computing Graduate Fellowships to Kaijian Liu, a graduate student in Earth Science studying under professor Alan Levander. Kaijian's research in computational seismology focuses on teleseismic imaging/inversion of the geological structure beneath the western United States.

"BP has been engaged with the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice in a number of ways, including development of HPC education and training material, providing equipment to computer labs and co-hosting workshops focused on high performance computing in the industry," said Jan Odegard, executive director of the K2I at Rice. "The fellowships not only help our students but are instrumental in highlighting the HPC career opportunities in the industry."

A listing of this year's recipients can be viewed here: http://k2i.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=514

image of Dr. Richard Gordon

 

Department of Earth Science welcomes new chair

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Richard G. Gordon, W. M. Keck Foundation Professor in Geophysics, as the new Department of Earth Science Chair, effective July 1, 2011.

 

 

 

 

image of Dr. John Anderson

Fossilized pollen reveals climate history of northern Antarctica
Analysis of direct climate record shows Antarctic tundra persisted until 12 million years ago

A painstaking examination of the first direct and detailed climate record from the continental shelves surrounding Antarctica reveals that the last remnant of Antarctic vegetation existed in a tundra landscape on the continent's northern peninsula about 12 million years ago. The research, which was led by researchers at Rice University and Louisiana State University, is featured on the cover of the July 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The rapid decline of glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula has led to widespread speculation about how the rest of the continent's ice sheets will react to rising global temperatures.

"The best way to predict future changes in the behavior of Antarctic ice sheets and their influence on climate is to understand their past," said Rice University marine geologist Dr. John Anderson, the study's lead author. The study paints the most detailed picture to date of how the Antarctic Peninsula first succumbed to ice during a prolonged period of global cooling.

Detailed article on these findings: http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=15913

 

image of Dr. Alan Levander

Mystery of Grand Canyon's formation revealed
Rice University geologist leads team effort to solve mystery of the Colorado Plateau

The birth of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau through which it carved has been a geological mystery. Now a giant anomalous structure discovered on the underside of the plateau could shed light on how it was formed. Dr. Alan Levander, the Carey Croneis Professor of Earth Science, is quoted. Dr. Cin-Ty Lee, associate professor of Earth Science, and Rice Earth Science graduate student, Kaijian Liu, contributed to this research and co-authored the findings with Dr. Levander. A link to the Rice news release about this research was featured on the homepage of the National Science Foundation's Science360.gov. The full release can be viewed at http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=15703&SnID=839357408

More media coverage on these findings: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/how-the-grand-canyon-was-formed_n_854549.html

 

image of A A P G Foundation logo

Rice Earth Science graduate students awarded Grants In Aid from AAPG
Brandon Harper and Karem Lopez are recipients of the 2011 David Worthington prize

Two Rice Earth Science graduate students, Karem Lopez and Brandon Harper, have been awarded the David Worthington Grants In Aid prize from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) at their recent meeting in Houston. This is one of the monetary prizes granted to students through the AAPG Foundation, which embraces a primary goal of providing a source of funding for educational, charitable, and scientific objectives, which directly and indirectly benefit the geologic profession and the general public.

More about the award: http://foundation.aapg.org/gia/worthington_family.cfm

Listing of 2011 AAPG GIA recipients: http://foundation.aapg.org/gia/current.cfm.

 

image of Dr. Bill Symes

Rice mathematician honored for geoscience research
Bill Symes honored by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Rice University applied mathematician Bill Symes' longtime efforts to develop models and tools for oil and gas exploration have earned him a career achievement award from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).

Symes, the Noah Harding Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics, professor of Earth science and director of The Rice Inversion Project (TRIP), won the 2011 Career Award from the SIAM Activity Group on Geosciences. In announcing the award, the society said Symes was chosen for "seminal contributions to methods, analysis, algorithms and software for seismic inversion and wave propagation, for his exceptional influence as a teacher and mentor and for the fundamental impact that his work has had in the industrial community."

More on Dr. Symes' award: http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=15593

Full description of SIAM's Career Prize in Geosciences: http://www.siam.org/prizes/sponsored/gscareer.php.

 

image of Dr. Dale Sawyer

Aftershocks Hamper Rescue Efforts In Japan
8.9-Magnitude Earthquake Shook Japan On Friday

Japan has experienced several strong aftershocks after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit on Friday, and more are expected. After the earthquake, a tsunami swept water several miles inland. Rescuers have had to deal with more than 20 big aftershocks, and experts said those will continue.

"These large magnitude aftershocks will certainly continue for the next few weeks, but they will diminish gradually," said Dale Sawyer, an Earth science professor at Rice University. "Even two or three years from now, we will be able to see very small aftershocks, but at that point they will not be damaging."

The full story: http://www.click2houston.com/news/27187461/detail.html

 

image of Dr. Carrie Masiello

Less fertilizer is more for biofuel crops
Rice University scientists and their colleagues find that when growing corn crops for ethanol, more means less.
Caroline Masiello, assistant professor of Earth Science, and Morgan Gallagher, who recently earned her PhD in Earth Science, are quoted in findings that have implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy the country's need for energy while trying to cut its reliance on fossil fuels. Their research findings describe how corn grain, one source of ethanol, in contrast to a corn plant's stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization.

"The findings are an important next step in building a sustainable biofuel economy," says Carrie Masiello, assistant professor of Earth Science at Rice University. "Plants benefit from some nitrogen from fertilizer to produce the biomolecules they need to grow and function, but for many crops, a little is enough. We already know too much fertilizer is bad for the environment. Now we've shown that it's bad for biofuel crop quality too," Masiello says.

The full story: http://www.futurity.org/earth-environment/when-fertilizing-corn-less-means-more/

 

U.S. News and World Report graphic

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT ranks Rice Earth Science #12 nationally in Geophysics and Seismology for 2010.

Read more: http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-science-schools/geophysics-seismology-rankings

 

 

image of Dr. Rajdeep Dasgupta

Rajdeep Dasgupta is awarded the F.W. Clarke Medal from the Geochemical Society
Dr. Rajdeep Dasgupta, an assistant professor of Earth Science at Rice, has been named this year's recipient of the F.W. Clarke Award. This award is made annually at the V. M. Goldschmidt Conference to an early-career scientist for a single outstanding contribution to geochemistry or cosmochemistry, published either as a single paper or a series of papers on a single topic

Read more: http://www.geochemsoc.org/awards/fwclarkeaward.htm
and here: http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=15449

 

image of Steven Boswell

Earth Science Student Steven Boswell awarded 2010-2011 Houston Geological Society Undergraduate Scholarship
The HGS established the Undergraduate Scholarship Fund in 1984, with the long-term objective of funding at least one junior/senior level scholarship per year to outstanding geoscience majors at six local universities.

These competitive awards are for full-time undergraduates carrying the normal academic load as a bonafide geology major with a 3.0 cumulative grade point average. Besides scholastic ability, the applicants must show evidence of high moral, ethical standards and conduct. Eligible students are selected from Rice University, the University of Houston, Lamar University, University of Texas, Texas A&M, Stephen F. Austin University, and Sam Houston State University. The application process includes completed forms, transcripts of all college work, and three letters of recommendation with at least one being from an instructor or academic advisor during the past year of study.

Read more: http://www.hgs.org/en/art/24/

 

See past news highlights...


Research Highlights

photo courtesy of JEFF FITLOW/RICE UNIVERSITY

Rice hosts newly funded GeoPRISMS program
Program brings together offshore, onshore communities in geosciences
 
Rice's campus may be land-locked, but there's one place at the university where the ocean meets the sea. GeoPRISMS, which recently moved into new offices in George R. Brown Hall, aims to bring together terrestrial and marine researchers who study similar geological phenomena. The new, 10-year program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
 
'We're always looking across the shoreline,' said program director Julia Morgan, professor of Earth Science. 'The goal is to create a dialogue between people who work onshore and people who work offshore. We want to bring those communities together and have them focus some of their attention on the shoreline to see how geological processes change as they cross the shoreline.'

Read More of Jade Boyd's article...

Photo credit: Jeff Fitlow


photo courtesy of EVERETT SALAS, ZHENGZONG SUN/RICE UNIVERSITY

Graphene oxide goes green
Rice researchers show environmentally friendly ways to make it in bulk, break it down
 
A new paper from the lab of Rice chemist James Tour demonstrates an environmentally friendly way to make bulk quantities of graphene oxide (GO), an insulating version of single-atom-thick graphene expected to find use in all kinds of material and electronic applications.
 
A second paper from Tour and Andreas Lüttge, a Rice professor of Earth science and chemistry, shows how GO is broken down by common bacteria that leave behind only harmless, natural graphite.
 
Dr. Lüttge and Everett Salas, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab and primary author of the second paper, had already been studying the effects of bacteria on carbon, so it was simple to shift their attention to GO. They found bacteria from the genus Shewanella easily convert GO to harmless graphene. The graphene then stacks itself into graphite.
 
"That's a big plus for green nano, because these ubiquitous bacteria are quickly converting GO into an environmentally benign mineral," Dr. Tour said.

Read More...

Photo credit: Everett Salas and Zhengzong Sun


image of Dr. Richard Gordon

Tectonics: Precision is hallmark of 20-year study
Richard Gordon, the W.M. Keck Foundation Chair in Geophysics, and collaborators Chuck DeMets of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Donald Argus of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have just put the finishing touches on a 20-year labor of love, a precise description of the relative movements of the interlocking tectonic plates that account for about 97 percent of Earth's surface.

Read More...