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Find Your Science at GSA
30 September 2009
GSA Release No. 09-47
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach
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GSA Announces 2009 Gold Medalists

Penrose Medalist, Arthur L. Day Medalist, and Young Scientist Award/Donath Medalist to give special lectures at GSA Annual Meeting in Portland

Boulder, CO, USA – Highest honors for achievements in geological sciences have been announced by The Geological Society of America (GSA). Awards will be presented at the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony at the GSA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA, on Saturday, 17 October, 7–9 p.m.

For more information about GSA awards, visit Citations and responses from the 2009 GSA medal and award winners will be posted at this site just prior to the Annual Meeting in October.


B. Clark Burchfiel, Schlumberger Professor of Geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be awarded the prestigious Penrose Medal for 2009. Established in 1927 by R.A.F. Penrose, Jr., the medal recognizes outstanding original work that marks a major advance in the science of geology. In citing Burchfiel for the award, Gregory A. Davis of the University of Southern California wrote, “Most of Burchfiel’s work has concerned continental tectonics in such diverse environments as the slopes of Everest, the deserts of the U.S. Southwest, the Appalachian forests, the Scandinavian Caledonian arctic, the Helvetics and Carpathians, the Tibetan Plateau and its transitional margins, the ethnically conflicted Balkan states, and the northern Andes.

“He was the first earth scientist to see the importance of establishing a GPS network along Tibet’s eastern and northeastern margins. He then mentored a cadre of Chinese earth scientists in funding and setting up the network that has led to strikingly new theories about the rheology of Tibet’s thickened crust and its response to continental collision,” said Davis. Over a period of nearly 50 years, Burchfiel has traveled, measured, and mapped the world and authored more than 180 papers documenting his discoveries.

Arthur L. Day Medal

T. Mark Harrison, Professor of Geology at the University of California at Los Angeles was named the Arthur L. Day Medalist for outstanding distinction in contributing to geologic knowledge through the application of physics and chemistry to the solution of geologic problems.

“Harrison’s contributions to thermochronology and to our understanding of the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth’s crust make him a worthy recipient,” said citationist Frederick J. Ryerson of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Harrison recognized the thermal signature inherent in tectonic and plutonic processes, and developed the necessary experimental constraints, analytical methods, and theoretical framework required to determine thermal histories using the K-Ar system. Further, Harrison picked up an earlier research thread (Dodson, 1973) putting such systems to use in recovering thermal histories via the diffusive loss of daughter product, and over the subsequent 30 years, became the leading proponent of this essential discipline. The power of thermochronology was fully realized in Harrison’s investigation of the ongoing evolution of the Himalayan-Tibetan mountain system.” Harrison has also made significant contributions to the development of accessory mineral thermometry.

Young Scientist Award / Donath Medal

Cin-Ty A. Lee, Associate Professor at Rice University, will receive the Young Scientist Award, consisting of the gold Donath Medal (endowed by Dr. and Mrs. Fred A. Donath) and a cash prize of $20,000. The award was established in 1988 to recognize young scientists (aged 35 or younger) for outstanding original research marking a major advance in the earth sciences. In nominating Lee for the award, citationist Roberta L. Rudnick of the University of Maryland noted Lee’s large and diverse impact: “He has made important contributions to the study of the continents and to understanding why Archean cratons are so strong. He has investigated topics as diverse as the oxidation state of the Earth’s mantle through time, trace element partitioning between mantle minerals, and the chemical influence of weathering on the continents. Recently, he published what is sure to be a seminal paper on how basalt chemistry can be used to infer the pressures and temperatures of their mantle sources.”

Lee is also mentor to an array of young scientists and a semi-professional ornithologist. “He is one of the brightest of the new generation of multidisciplinary geoscientists whose work embraces geophysics and geochemistry but is fundamentally pinned in geology,” said Rudnick.

Gold Medal Lectures

A new program this year at the Portland Annual Meeting will feature the three GSA Gold Medalists in a special lecture on Sunday, 18 October, 5–7 p.m., in the Portland Ballroom at the Oregon Convention Center.

Burchfiel, Harrison, and Lee will reflect on their scientific careers and take questions from the audience. GSA President Jean Bahr will chair the program. Members of the media are invited to attend, and no reservations, tickets, or invitations are required.