Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory director G. Michael Purdy has been named Columbia University’s executive vice president for research. Taking over as interim director of the observatory is associate director Arthur Lerner-Lam. The moves, effective Feb. 1, were announced by Columbia president Lee Bollinger and Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs in emails to staff yesterday.
Lerner-Lam currently heads Lamont’s Division of Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics. An expert in earthquakes and other natural hazards, he is “a renowned pioneer in bringing seismological knowledge to earthquake-affected communities around the world,” said Sachs. Among other things, he recently helped lead an international scientific task force aimed at helping earthquake-ravaged Haiti rebuild with an eye to future hazards. He will serve while the university conducts a worldwide search for a permanent director. In a message to the staff, Lerner-Lam said, “Mike Purdy’s leadership has made the observatory one of the leading intellectual enterprises at Columbia, and an icon among our peer institutions in the Earth Sciences.”