Reflecting on the many things that transpired since our last newsletter in Fall 2021, I want to thank our staff, faculty, students, and postdocs for their creativity, hard work, and resourcefulness. As you will see in this edition, we have collectively been through a lot and accomplished even more. Thank you too to our alumni and donors without whose support we would have had a harder time doing what we do best.
Many of us had the luxury and the pain of settling back into our newly renovated building. The facilities and ambiance are on the whole much improved and, thanks to the new public spaces, the Geological Sciences building feels more active than it ever has before. Yet, as with any large project, flaws are still being found, fixes applied, and adjustments made. John Hettle has worked diligently to bring the building up to its full potential, and Ruth Droppo has created exhibits and signage that add to the vibrancy and impact of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences on campus.
Two exciting developments since our last newsletter are a new and more prominent seismic station display (thank you Terry Stigall, John Hettle, and Michael Hamburger) and a purpose-designed outreach center in the Indiana Geological and Water Survey that features minerals, fossils, rocks, and tons (almost literally) of interactive information about Indiana’s geology and natural resources (thank you Polly Sturgeon and Jennifer Lanman).
One of the most significant events of the past year was a strike by graduate student instructors last spring. Organized by the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, the strike was primarily for formal recognition of a graduate student union with stipends and fees being two of the motivating factors. At the time of the strike, our graduate stipends at $18,333 were third to the lowest of our Big 10 geoscience peer departments. Late this summer, IU announced that it would raise the minimum graduate instructor stipend to $22,000, putting us well above the Big 10 median.
Last year Pamela Whitten became the 19th President of Indiana University and in February she was joined by a new campus Provost, Rahul Shrivastav. With an almost completely new senior administration, they are beginning to put their vision for IU into practice this year. Many of the changes are still emerging, but they include a complete restructuring of internal research funding and other changes to the responsibility center management (RCM) financial model that IU has used in recent decades, as well as new initiatives for hiring faculty. It is too early to know how the changes will impact EAS, but we hope they will benefit science degrees and research on campus.
The accomplishments of our faculty and students were recognized by several important awards this year. Juergen Schieber received the Sorby Medal for his preeminent lifetime accomplishments in the understanding of shales. In recognition of his pioneering work on molecular geochemistry, Simon Brassell was elected fellow of the Geochemical Society and of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). I am proud to have been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). Cody Kirkpatrick and Jackson Njau both received IU Trustees Teaching Awards for their excellent work in the classroom. You will learn more about these and other awards later in this newsletter.
We welcomed a new faculty member, Dr. Elizabeth Kenderes, to fill our Lecturer position vacated by Bruce Douglas’s retirement, and Dr. Jinhua Ginny Gong will start this January as an Assistant Professor in geophysics. Jim Handschy retired from his Professor of Practice faculty position and as director of the IU Geological Field Station (IUGFS) and we owe him many thanks for his service, not the least of which was leading our capstone field course through the COVID pandemic years.
This year, I am excited to say, we will be searching for two new tenure-track faculty. We lost Mark Toensing as resident manager of IUGFS and are still seeking a replacement for that important job (thank you to Carol Glaze, Amanda McKinney, and Ruth Droppo for traveling to Montana to help fill the gaps this summer). Graduate services coordinator Bryan Roberts said goodbye and we recently welcomed Cami Albers to replace him. Brandon Ettelt joined us in the new staff position of Financial Administrative Coordinator, helping to relieve the overload on Amanda McKinney who had been doing that job as well as Program and Financial Coordinator for the IUGFS. And we are awaiting the arrival in September of Molly Karnes, who replaces Ben Underwood as technical manager for the Stable Isotope Research Facility.
Tyler Doane and Sílvia Pineda-Muñoz completed their postdocs and started new jobs and we welcomed Dr. Eyal Marder and Dr. Eric Barefoot as new postdocs working with Brian Yanites and Doug Edmonds. And, as you will see later in this newsletter, many of our undergraduate and graduate students graduated.
I wish everyone a successful new year.
Special thanks to Arndt Schimmelmann and Ruth Droppo for assembling this newsletter.
P. David Polly
23 August 2022