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Department Head’s Letter: Fall 1999

Once again, I am astonished that another year has already passed and the time has arrived to update you all with another e-newsletter. Last year was certainly one of the busiest that I can recall in my thirteen years at the UO so there is plenty to report.

Planning for the Future As you will recall from last year’s newsletter, two principal recommendations of the outside visiting committee that evaluated us in 1998 in connection with our decennial review, were that we develop a long range hiring plan, and reevaluate our curriculum from the ground up. I am pleased to report that we accomplished both objectives last year, although I will admit that it required a quite a few faculty meetings. Hiring Plan: I’ll only touch on the highlights here. Primary objectives of the plan are to grow by a modest amount and to develop a new strength in the study of surface processes characteristic of active continental margins. The former goal is motivated both by a desire to have a larger staff to share the work load, and by the realization that we are the smallest department at a public university ranked in the top 50 by the National Research Council. The latter goal represents an attempt to build a distinctive new program that takes advantage of our location astride the Cascadia subduction zone. The plan also calls for a joint hire with the Environmental Studies Program, as well as maintaining our strengths in petrology/geochemistry and sedimentology/paleontology. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to begin implementing the plan this very year and the details of the individuals that we seek to hire may be viewed in the job announcements appearing elsewhere on our web page.

Curriculum Revision: Our curriculum committee, ably led by Mark Reed, undertook a complete review of our undergraduate curriculum and recommended many changes that the faculty as a whole adopted. Among these were fairly routine things such as eliminating a few classes that had not been taught in several years, and combining a number of other offerings. We also renamed our introductory courses at both the 100- and 200-level and rewrote course descriptions; a goal was to emphasize the environmentally-oriented content.

The more exciting changes include adding a new full term class in Earth Materials designed for our students and students from Environmental Studies, and several half term, five week classes, including new classes in Earth Physics and Field Methods designed for second year majors. We also broke up the Mineralogy sequence into five week modules so students who wish to learn about the silicate minerals but do not care to learn mineral optics will soon have that option. We also added a 200-level class in the Geology of National Parks to provide lower division students an introductory-level class with a more narrow focus than our 100-level survey sequence.

Some of the changes described above were implemented this year but the more ambitious changes, particularly the five-week classes, will not go into effect until 2000-2001.

Departmental People

Faculty Activities The past year was a bit unusual because we had neither a hire nor a promotion and thus, I have no such news to share with you. But, as you will see, there were plenty of other activities. And next year, I hope to be able to tell you about our two new assistant professor hires as well as the half time instructor position that we hope to fill.

Probably the most momentous new development was the partial retirement of Allan Kays at the end of winter term after more than three decades of service. Allan didn’t retire fully but instead began the five year long tenure reduction program. Thus, we will continue to enjoy Allan’s company and students will continue to benefit from his teaching of General Petrology and Accreted Terranes during Spring terms through 2003, when he will retire fully. Norman Savage also signed the paper work this past year, obligating himself to follow in Allan’s footsteps and begin the tenure reduction program in June of 2002.

At the other end of the seniority spectrum, our assistant professors Becky Dorsey and Michael Manga have been busy getting themselves firmly established. Since I last wrote, Becky was awarded a new NSF grant to fund a project she is beginning, together with graduate student Derek Ryter, in the San Jacinto Fault Zone of southern California. Becky also kept herself busy last year teaching Geology 103 for the first time and getting previous work written up for publication in anticipation of being considered for promotion to associate professor with tenure during 1999-2000. At present, Becky is supervising three Ph.D. students and one M.S. student.

Michael Manga had a banner year with two significant University of Oregon honors bestowed upon him. During winter term, Michael was chosen as the 1999 Richard A. Bray Faculty Fellow for the sciences and, at the end of spring term, UO president Dave Frohnmeyer paid Michael a visit in his class to award him one of the two campus-wide Ersted Awards for Distinguished Teaching. Michael graduated his second (Liz James) and third (Dayanthie Weerarantne) M.S. students last spring. Dayanathie is now a Ph.D. student at Brown University and Liz in enrolled in the UO journalism program seeking a career in science writing. Martin Saar, who received his M.S. with Michael last year, is now well on his way to the Ph.D. degree, still working with Michael.

Associate professor Doug Toomey’s big news is that he was married during summer, 1998 to fellow marine geophysicist Dr. Emilie Hooft. Emilie has been a post-doc at the Carnegie Institution of Washington for most of the past year but we look forward to having her join us full time after Christmas. Doug graduated Ph.D. students Rob Dunn and Andrew Barclay last year; they moved on to post-doctoral positions at Brown University and Woods Hole respectively. Doug remains a major “mover and shaker” in the marine geophysics and RIDGE research communities, and he also continues to serve as director of the Computational Sciences Institute on campus. And, most recently, Doug and Emilie spent several weeks in the Galapagos Islanda on a recently funded project aptly named project IGUANA!

Our other associate professor, Ray Weldon, gave us a fright this past summer when he announced that he was considering an offer from the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pasadena. In the end, Ray and his family elected to remain at the UO, primarily for personal reasons, but also because Ray was offered an opportunity to develop a Center for the Study of Geological Hazards, a topic Ray has grown more interested in as time has passed. We’ve hired Dr. Marli Miller as a half time instructor to take over some of Ray’s former duties with Structural Geology and Field Camp, to free up time for Ray to pursue this new interest. We are all excited about the prospects that we believe the new center will bring the department and we look forward to seeing it grow. Ray graduated several students last year including Rob Langridge, now with the U.S.G.S., and Gordon Seitz, now a post-doc at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Ray continues with his work in central Asia, as well as with more local studies in southern California and various regions of Oregon. Ray will be considered for promotion to full professor during 1999-2000.

Turning now to our full professors, Gordon Goles enjoyed a two term sabbatical in New Zealand last year and is now busy teaching Geoanthropology and Geochemistry. Gordon has also been active in research with courtesy research associate Abbas Seyedolali using the new cathodoluminesence detector on our scanning electron microprobe to in studies of quartz grain provenance and formation of hydrothermal veins. Gordon is also the second author on a new recently submitted paper dealing with the radiogenic isotope systematics (or lack of!) of the Skaergaard Intrusion.

Gene Humphreys liked the sound of Gordon’s sabbatical so much that he decided to take a two term sabbatical himself, during 1999-2000. Gene will spend part of Fall term with scientists from the University of New Mexico and will spend much of late Fall and early winter at M.I.T. working with scientists there on constraining the source of the forces that drive plate motions. Gene and his students continue their work imaging the upper mantle beneath the western U.S., and their project aimed at imaging the Yellowstone “hotspot” is still underway. Gene continues to contribute to his research community through service on panels and participation in workshops. Gene and Ray Weldon co-supervised Mark Hemphill-Haley who defended his Ph.D. last year and Gene has several other students nearing completion.

Volcanologist Kathy Cashman has been busy on many fronts, not the least of which has been graduating students. Indeed, just during the last year Ph.D. graduates Julia Hammer, Jon Castro, Anita Ho, Charlene Montierth, and M.S. students Renee Bourgeois and Martha Folley all defended! Julia is now a post-doc at Brown University and Jon, Anita, and Charlene are all in college teaching positions. Kathy has also had a good deal of success raising research funding, including a brand new two year grant with Dana Johnston as a co-PI. Kathy’s brand of volcanology is catching on world-wide, as evidenced by her recent three week tour of Europe including a keynote address to the Royal Society of London, and a five day visit with Hans Schminke’s group in Kiel, Germany. And finally, Kathy is a candidate for the presidency of the VGP section of the American Geophysical Union.

Dana Johnston continues to serve as our department head and is just now beginning his fifth year at the helm. He spent much of last year in negotiations with the College aimed at getting authorization for the searches that we currently have underway. Dana graduated Ph.D. student Jennifer Pickering last year and she is now a post-doc with Chip Lesher at UC-Davis. With Jen gone, Brandon Schwab remains to finish up the group’s five year project on high pressure mantle melting. Dana is excited about the proposal he just had funded together with Kathy Cashman and is looking forward to leaving the mantle before too much longer and beginning experiments of a more volcanological nature.

Mark Reed and graduate student Brian Rusk continue their work on the giant porphyry deposit at Butte, Montana in collaboration with John Dilles and students at O.S.U. Indeed, this work will form the basis of a special session that Mark and John will convene at the Fall GSA meeting in Denver next week. Mark and Brian have also begun to use the new cathodoluminesce detector on our SEM to gain new insight into the chronology of deposition of hydrothermal vein fillings. Mark also did a great job running our curriculum committee last year and oversaw the introduction of some very innovative changes to our curriculum.

As I write, Greg Retallack is off on a speaking tour that will take him to several universities as well as to the national GSA meeting in Denver. Greg is currently supervising three graduate students working in locations as diverse as east Africa and the Grand Canyon. Last year Greg was awarded the Antarctica Service medal by the NSF. And, in Greg’s characteristic prolific way, the publications just keep rolling off of the press!

Jack Rice seems to be a bit more deeply ensconced in administrative work each time I write and this time is no exception. Jack currently holds a two-thirds time appointment as Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, a posting that keeps him in Johnson Hall a good deal of the time. Jack’s duties in this position focus on faculty development and he is deeply involved in the front end of the university-wide tenure and promotion process. In the department Jack continues to direct our electron microbeam facility and teach classes to the degree that he is able.

As I mentioned above, Norman Savage has signed the paper work that will lead him into the tenure reduction program beginning in 2002. But, don’t go getting any ideas that Norm is slowing down. Indeed, Norm will soon graduate Ph.D. student Mary Baxter and a glance at his vita reveals five publications during 1999, not the least of which was his 320 page contribution to the new GSA and University of Kansas Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Norm also serves as our Head Undergraduate Advisor.

And finally, Harve Waff’s research continues to get deeper into environmental geophysics, with recent funded efforts including an electromagnetic imaging survey aimed as detecting subsurface faults in central Oregon, and a DOGAMI-funded study this past summer aimed at imaging aquifers in the Klamath Lake region using electromagnetic techniques.

Student Activities Last year was one of those strange years that come along every now and then when the planets seem to line up just so, leading to large numbers of graduate students finishing up at nearly the same time. Never before in my 13 years in the department have I seen so many finish in a single year. Ph.D. graduates: Rob Dunn, Andrew Barclay, Julia Hammer, Anita Ho, Charlene Montierth, Jon Castro, Gordon Seitz, Rob Langridge, Jennifer Pickering, Pete Condon, Mark Hemphill-Haley, Evelyn Krull, and Rob Witter. M.S. graduates: Renee Bourgeois, Chris Hedeen, Martha Folley, Liz James, Harald Stockhausen, and Dayanthie Weeraratne. Not only did all odd these people finish up first class theses and dissertations but many of them went on to excellent next positions, including six postdoctoral positions at top-notch universities and national labs, four college teaching positions, two positions with geohazard consulting firms, and one position with a mining company. Of the Master’s degree recipients, two have gone on for additional graduate work. With all of these people now gone, and just seven new graduate students here to take their place, the department seems a bit more empty that we are used to. I guess we can write the mass exodus off to the statistics of small numbers and expect that things will even out again at a level more like what we are used to.

Student Kudos Our students continue to earn well deserved honors and I want to spend a moment here recognizing some of these exceptional achievements. I am particularly pleased to announce that undergraduate major Ben Andrews received one of only three “Undergraduate Awards” distributed nationwide by the Mineralogical Society of America recognizing his exceptional abilities and passion for the subject. Together with a certificate, Ben also received a copy of Frank Spear’s MSA Monograph: “Metamorphic Phase Equilibria and Pressure-Temperature-Time Paths”.

Another undergraduate major, Bretagne Hygelund, received a Women in Physical Sciences Fellowship consisting of a full tuition waiver for her senior year. Bretagne is well on her way toward finishing up an honors thesis and is busy scoping out graduate schools for next year. Bretagne capped off her year by also receiving a research grant from the Corps of Engineers as well as a field camp scholarship from the National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT)–not a bad year!. Undergraduate majors Miguel Arriaga and Elliot Shuford also received NAGT field camp scholarships.

Among our recent graduate students, Julia Hammer deserves special recognition for the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship that she was awarded. Julia elected to take the award to Mac Rutherford’s lab at Brown University where she is now exploring experimental petrological approaches to the study of volcanology. Finally, I would be remiss to close this section on student honors and activities without making mention of the fact that current or recent graduate students Bill Hammond, Martin Saar, Rob Witter, and Jennifer Pickering were all married this past summer, with the latter two marrying each other in a ceremony along the McKenzie River at which Courtesy Professor John Logan officiated.

Staff Activities I am very pleased to report that we still have all of the same staff members as when I last wrote. I take this to indicate that Wanda Weber, Patty Valenzuela, and Pat Kallunki in our front office, Michael Shaffer in our electron microbeam lab, Pat Ryan in our geophysics labs, and Lori Suskin in our thin section lab, are all satisfied and generally enjoying their daily challenges. This summer saw new contract negotiations between our classified staff union and the Oregon University System and I was delighted to see the two sides reach an agreement without need for a threatened strike which would have affected some of our staff members. Wanda, our no-longer-all-that-new office manager continues to run an efficient and well-balanced office and we are all pleased with the way things are going.

Losses Regrettably, I am unable to draw this newsletter to a close without sharing with you the sad news that Allan Griggs and Wes Seaman both passed away during the past year. Many of you will remember Allan as a long time friend and supporter of the department who in recent years was an active member of the Tuesday morning emeritus professor gatherings. Allan died on January 29. Wes was our accountant for many years before health concerns led him to take early retirement several years ago. Wes had big plans for his retirement years and it is indeed sad that he was unable to win his battle with cancer. Wes died on August 19. Closing Statement I see that I have now written on for over six pages so I suspect the time to draw this newsletter to a close has long since passed. As I said at the outset, we have a busy year ahead of us with two promotion cases and three hires. Please tune back in about this time next year to learn the outcome of these important events, as well as about all of the other things that are sure to occur that we can only guess about today.