Aster, Arendt Take Top Faculty Honors

SOCORRO, N.M. May 18, 2010 – Each year, Tech recognizes outstanding research and teaching by a faculty or staff member of the Institute.

 Dr. Van Romero (at podium) introduces Dr. Rick Aster, winner of the 2010 Distinguished Researcher Award.

The recipients of the Distinguished Research Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award are chosen by a committees of Tech faculty and researchers from a list of people from the entire Tech campus nominated by their colleagues. Introduced in the 1980s, each award includes a framed certificate and $1,500.

The 2010 Distinguished Research Award was given to Dr. Rick Aster, the chairman of the Earth and Environmental Science Department. The 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award was given to Dr. Paul Arendt, Tech graduate and professor of physics. Both awards were announced at the 2010 Commencement on Saturday, May 15.

Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero introduced Aster and presented him the award.

“Dr. Richard Aster is a man of many talents,” Romero said. “He is a top researcher, a champion for Earth sciences, an educator, and a family man.

Dr. Aster is active in a wide range of seismological research activities that reach across many disciplinary boundaries, making his impact widely felt throughout the Earth Sciences community. By virtue of his leading edge research and outreach efforts, Dr. Aster has become an internationally renowned expert in geophysics, Romero said.

     New Mexico Tech Distinguished Researcher Award Winners

   2010 - Dr. Rick Aster, geophysics
   2009 - Dr. Bill Rison, electrical engineering
   2008 - Dr. Bhaskar Majumdar, materials engineering
   2007 - Dr. Tanja Pietraß, chemistry
   2006 - Dr. Robert S. Bowman, hydrology
   2005 - Dr. William C. Mcintosh, geochronology, Bureau of Geology
   2004 - Dr. Jill Buckley, petroleum chemist, PRRC
   2003 - Dr. Rafael Lara-Martinez, humanities
   2002 - Dr. Randall Seright, petroleum engineering, PRRC
   2001 - Dr. John McCoy, materials engineering
   2000 - Dr. Paul Krehbiel, physics
   1999 - Dr. Allan Gutjahr, math/hydrology
   1998 - Dr. John Wilson, hydrology
   1997 - Dr. Lawrence Werbelow, chemistry
   1996 - Dr. Krishan Chawla, materials
   1995 - Dr. David Raymond, physics
   1994 - Dr. Fred Phillips, hydrology
   1993 - Dr. Gerardo Gross, physics
   1992 - Dr. Jean Eilek, physics
   1991 - Dr. Kay Brower, chemistry
   1990 - Dr. Norman Morrow, petroleum engineering
   1989 - Dr. Osman Inal, materials
   1988 - Dr. Charles Chapin, geology
   1987 - Dr. Kent Condie, geology
   1986 - Dr. Marx Brook, physics
   1985 - Dr. Allan Sanford, geophysics
   1984 - Charles Moore, physics

Aster has led a number of ambitious projects to image the Earth’s interior that are advancing the field of seismology by generations. His is leading the global effort to explore and image the deep interior structure of the Earth, helping us understand earthquake and volcanic sources, and the geological evolution of Earth’s continents.

He is also pioneering the study of colliding icebergs and ocean storms using seismology. Dr. Aster is at the forefront of a new class of geophysics – climate seismology – that is already informing the scientific debate about global climate change.

Aster’s most visible contribution to the New Mexico Tech research community came in 1998.

“Rick came to me and suggested that New Mexico Tech submit a proposal to host the national seismological instrument center,” Romero said. “The community of Earth scientists – and especially our friends at Stanford and Columbia – were shocked when this little upstart university in New Mexico won the bid and became the new home of the IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center. Now, 12 years later, New Mexico Tech is positioned as a leader in global seismological research with Rick as the IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center Principal Investigator.”

In addition to his high-quality research, Aster is of the new breed of scientists who believes in discovery for the sake of discovery regardless of traditional boundaries of specialization.

“He truly believes and practices the open sharing of information among all scientists as the best way to advance humanity’s understanding of our world – from the core of the Earth to the edges of the atmosphere,” Romero said.

Dr. Paul Arendt accepts the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award from President Lopez.

“His outreach efforts never stop. He regularly appears on TV news casts discussing earthquakes and seismic studies," Romero said.

Aster was selected as a Distinguished Lecturer by the Seismological Society of America for 2009, giving public talks about Earth Science to audiences around the nation as well as internationally.

“By virtue of all of his endeavors, Dr. Aster’s activities bring much-valued attention to New Mexico Tech and the discipline Earth sciences,” Romero said.

Aster's broad perspective on seismological science and its many applications is well appreciated by his national and international colleagues. He was a co-chair of a comprehensive National Science Foundation-sponsored report on "Grand Challenges in Seismology" in 2008, and was elected 2009-2011 president of the 104-year old Seismological Society of America, were he oversees and coordinates the outreach, publication, government relations, and publications efforts of the society.  The presidency of SSA is a position that has been held by most of the discipline's luminaries, including Charles Richter.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity presented the Distinguished Teaching Award to physics professor Dr. Paul Arendt.

   New Mexico Tech Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

   2010 - Dr. Paul Arendt, physics
   2009 - Dr. Jeff Altig, chemistry
   2008 - Dr. Gilbert Kerr, mathematics
   2007 - Dr. Warren Ostergren, mechanical engineering
   2006 - Dr. Al Smoake, biology
   2005 - Dr. Clint Richardson, environmental engineering
   2004 - Dr. Robert Cormack, psychology
   2003 - Dr. Carl Popp, chemistry
   2002 - Dr. Mark Cal, environmental engineering
   2001 - Dr. Donald Weinkauf, chemical engineering
   2000 - Dr. Deidre Hirschfeld, materials engineering
   1999 - Dr. Emily Nye, humanities
   1998 - Dr. Ken Minschwaner, physics
   1997 - Dr. Paul Fuierer, materials engineering
   1996 - Dr. Laurel Goodwin, Earth sciences
   1995 - Dr. William Rison, electrical engineering
   1994 - Dr. Nicholas Haddad, electrical engineering
   1993 - Dr. John McCoy, materials engineering
   1992 - Dr. William Stone, mathematics
   1991 - Dr. David Westpfahl, physics
   1990 - Dr. Frank Etscorn, psychology
   1989 - Dr. William X. Chavez Jr., mineral engineering
   1988 - Dr. Ross Lomanitz, physics
   1987 - Dr. Alan Gutjahr, mathematics
   1986 - Dr. Howard Sylvester, humanities

Dr. Arendt earned his bachelor’s degree from New Mexico Tech, before heading to California for his master’s. He returned to Socorro for his doctorate in physics.

“Over the past seven years, Tech students have come to know Paul as the consummate educator,” Gerity said.

Several students nominated Paul for this award, including graduate students and undergraduates. Gerity read excerpts from the nominations that capture students’ appreciation and admiration of Arendt.

One student wrote, “He clearly enjoys teaching, and radiates enthusiasm over his subject matter. Besides having an enthusiasm which is absolutely contagious to his students, he has other strictly academic qualities that are highly positive.”

Another student wrote, “The most important thing is that he often opens doors to students who are ready to learn something entirely new.

Yet another student wrote, “He goes above and beyond the call of duty. His door is always open, and he will always accommodate students as long as you need.”

All the students who nominated Dr. Arendt credited him with bringing genuine enthusiasm and energy to the classroom and to the subject matter, as well as an extensive breadth of knowledge.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech