Lamont Weekly Report, May 22, 2020

    It was a week of very mixed emotions. The Lamont community was deeply saddened by the news that Rhonda Martinson passed away on Tuesday. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, Rhonda worked as an Office Assistant in the Lamont Core Lab from 1979 to 1982. Most now at the Observatory knew Rhonda primarily in her 48-year-long role as the spouse and life partner of Doug Martinson, who retired from his Lamont Research Professor position at the end of January this year. Our thoughts and support go out to Doug and all of Rhonda’s friends and family members.

    This week was also a time for joy, for all of our students who successfully completed degrees and will be moving on to new programs or careers. Wednesday was Columbia University’s Commencement Day, and an annual ceremony that dates back to 1758 was held via web broadcast for the first time. An “Empire State of Mind” video tribute to the graduates adds a further mark of distinction to this very different year. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences staged a Zoom-hosted Class Day for the department’s graduating seniors on Tuesday, and the Earth Institute on Wednesday posted a shout-out to the 2020 graduates in Sustainability and Environmental Science from the institute’s undergraduate, Ph.D., and multiple Master’s degree programs, including the inaugural class of the M.S. in Sustainability Science Program, managed by Art Lerner-Lam. The posting includes words of congratulations from Art, Michela Biasutti, Steve Chillrud, Brad Linsley, John Mutter, Mike Previdi, Mike Steckler, Mingfang Ting, and Park Williams, among others.

    On Monday, the DEES Undergraduate Student Committee announced the first annual Outstanding Professor and Teaching Assistant awards. Nominations were collected from all students who took a DEES class during the year and evaluated by a selection committee. The Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award went to Clara Chang and Marina Gemma, and other TAs nominated included Colleen Baublitz and Nick Bock. The Outstanding Professor Award was given to Jacky Austermann and Jerry McManus, and other faculty members nominated included Göran Ekström, Arlene Fiore, Sid Hemming, Peter Kelemen, Jonny Kingslake, Paul Olsen, Lorenzo Polvani, and Mingfang Ting. To the inaugural winners and all nominees, congratulations!

    Einat Lev learned recently that she will receive funding from Columbia University’s Research Initiatives in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. Her award, one of only four this year, is for a project to be conducted collaboratively with Prof. Christopher Boyce from the Department of Chemical Engineering and entitled “Take a Look Inside: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Magma Analogues to Study Volcanic Eruptions.”

    On Tuesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released Earth in Time, a decadal survey for the National Science Foundation’s Earth Sciences Division. The report is the product of the Committee on Catalyzing Opportunities for Research in the Earth Sciences (CORES), which was chaired by Jim Yoder from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and included Dennis Kent and Paul Olsen as members. A story on the report’s release and its principal recommendations was posted today to our web site.

    Columbia traditionally hosts an annual dinner for employees who have worked at the university for at least 25 years. The dinner this year was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Lamont can boast of two new members to the 25-year club: Maurice Mack and Chris Small. Congratulations, guys, for your collective half century of service to Lamont!

    This week brought a mix of media stories by, about, or with commentary from Lamont scientists. Today’s issue of Science includes a Logan Brenner article, a candidly personal story in the magazine’s Working Life series, on the difficult challenges faced by young scientists, particularly young women, who are starting careers and families at the same time. Also today, our web site gained a Marie Aronsohn story on Xiaomeng Jin and her work on the causes and impacts of ground-level ozone. Suzana Camargo was quoted in a story Monday in The Washington Post on a report that there have been changes in the patterns of tropical cyclones over the past 40 years, including a trend toward stronger storms, attributable to climate change. The work of Richard Seager was cited in a Science Times story Tuesday on the increased likelihood of heat waves and droughts in the U.S. that will rival the “dust bowl” conditions of the 1930s. On Wednesday, Radley Horton was interviewed on Radio Ecoshock on his work with Colin Raymond on the emergence of episodes of extreme humid heat beyond the limits of human tolerance. William Hawley was quoted in a Live Science story yesterday on seismic and bathymetric evidence for the slow but continuing break-up of the Indian tectonic plate into two or more smaller units. And Jim Davis was quoted at length for a New York Times article today on the “height modernization” efforts of the National Geodetic Survey to improve the definition of the geoid, the temporally varying datum for elevation measurements across the globe.

    Work continued this week on the development of plans to reopen the Lamont campus, gradually and safely, as conditions permit, and there will be a campus Town Hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon next week to present an update on the architecture of those plans and to answer questions. In the meantime, may you enjoy the three-day spring weekend ahead.