Lamont Weekly Report, September 14, 2012

It was evident this week that the academic year is in full swing.
On Monday, Art Lerner-Lam and I met with about two-thirds of Lamont’s postdoctoral scientists over lunch. A free-ranging discussion covered such topics as mentoring, career trajectories, expectations for scholarly progress, and opportunities for teaching and advising of student interns. Kuheli Dutt manages a web listing of Lamont’s current postdoctoral scientists (at least those who have responded to her request for a photo and a brief summary of research interests) at Kuheli also maintains a website that collects topics of specific interest to our postdoctoral scientists at
On Wednesday afternoon, the Lamont Advisory Board met in New York City. The meeting, held at Kaye Scholer LLP and generously hosted by Board member Gerry Sobel, featured a lively discussion on Board involvement in planning for the expansion of Lamont’s programs in development and communications. The meeting was followed by a special Director’s Circle science event on “Weather Weirdness.” The centerpiece of the program was a panel discussion moderated by Lamont alumna Heidi Cullen, Chief Climatologist at Climate Central. Panelists included IRI Director Lisa Goddard and Lamont scientists Peter Kelemen, Richard Seager, and Jason Smerdon.
In a related science event next week, Peter deMenocal will be giving a public lecture Tuesday evening on “Desert Formation and the Emergence of Civilization” at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. Interested attendees from Lamont will be welcomed, but the museum website ( indicates that reservations are recommended.
Yesterday morning, I attended my first meeting of the Council of Deans, chaired by the Provost. Topics discussed at a high level included the Provost’s initiative to enhance faculty diversity, faculty housing needs, upcoming changes to retirement benefit programs for new staff members, campus computing needs, a campus policy for research data preservation, and online education initiatives. More information on university plans in these areas can be expected in the near future.
Also yesterday, Art and I visited with Orin Herskowitz and several of his colleagues in the Columbia Technology Ventures office. We discussed technology transfer issues both generally and in the specific context of patenting and licensing inventions of Lamont scientists. We agreed to host a briefing session for interested staff on the Lamont campus in the near future.
A four-day Workshop on Scientific Drilling in the Samail Ophiolite, Sultanate of Oman, kicked off yesterday evening. The workshop, organized and chaired by Peter Kelemen and held at the IBM Dolce Conference Center across 9W from Lamont, has about 75 scientists in attendance. Workshop sponsors include the International Continental Drilling Program, the Sloan Foundation’s Deep Carbon Observatory, and the National Science Foundation. The workshop is intended to lead to one or more proposals for drilling in Oman to address a broad range of topics that include igneous, metamorphic, and tectonic processes at mid-ocean spreading centers; weathering and deformation in mafic and ultramafic lithologies; hydrology in fractured, altered ophiolite rock masses; the nature of the subsurface biosphere in peridotite and mafic settings; and CO2 uptake and abiotic hydrocarbon synthesis during water-rock reactions in ophiolites.
Amber Miller, Columbia’s Dean of Sciences for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, visited Lamont today to meet with the faculty of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Over lunch with Art, Peter deMenocal, and me, and at the faculty meeting this afternoon, Amber discussed Columbia’s research strategy for the sciences, now in draft form. Among the four “key research themes” proposed for emphasis over the next decade in Columbia’s nine science departments is “The Earth,” and the priorities set out in the strategy for faculty hiring and capital investments understandably drew the attention of all participants in the discussions.
This academic year promises to be an interesting one.