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The strategies that drive our faculty growth

March 17, 2014

Pam MatsonDear Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,

Welcome to our second newsletter of the 2013-14 academic year.  It’s been an exciting year thus far, with more interesting and important news than can be shared in just one venue.  We hope you read, watch the videos, and enjoy this newsletter!  Meanwhile, I’d like to use this moment to share a bit about our most critical resource: our faculty.

Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences has two important missions: to educate future leaders and to carry out innovative research.  Some of that research is focused on making discoveries about the workings of Earth and some is about developing knowledge needed to solve challenges that are among the greatest facing society.

The key to success in our teaching and research mission is, of course, our faculty.  Today, we have 61 amazing scientists and engineers who teach and advise undergraduates, train and mentor graduate students, carry out game-changing research, and serve the university and their communities in numerous other ways.  I know many of you remember your Stanford teachers and advisers with great warmth and respect.  We continue in that tradition with each new hire that we make.

As we’ve grown in the past decade or so, we’ve strengthened areas of long time excellence -- areas like geology, geophysics, geochemistry, as well as petroleum and other energy resource engineering -- yet at the same time we have broadened our expertise as societal challenges have broadened.  We now have considerable expertise in the field called Earth system science, including oceanography, land science, biogeochemistry, climate science, geography and resource economics.  We’ve just added expertise in a new geoscience area called geobiology, and are looking to grow our expertise in resource management areas such as risk assessment and spatial planning.  Critical issues related to strategic mineral resources are causing us to rethink and re-strengthen areas in which we used to be strong.  And across the board, we continue to grow our computational strengths, because the kind of complex work we do, and the huge amounts of data that we produce and use, require cutting-edge computational approaches.  

The new faculty members that have joined us in the past 18 months illustrate this breadth and continued commitment to excellence.  We’ve added two geobiologists, two geophysicists who work in rock physics and hazards areas, a biogeochemist who works in water resource areas, a geologist who works at the interface between science and policy related to nuclear energy, and an engineer who carries out life cycle assessments of a variety of energy resources.  Two of them – Rod Ewing and Tiziana Vanorio – are featured in this issue. In the coming year, we are likely to hire another handful of excellent faculty who will help position us for the challenges of the coming decades.  

As you read this newsletter, you’ll encounter some of the work of our faculty and their students, and you’ll hear about some of the awards they are winning and the research and teaching contributions they are making.  After doing so, I have no doubt that you will join me in feeling proud to be part of such a wonderful community.

Pamela A. Matson
Chester Naramore Dean
Stanford School of Earth Sciences