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Earth scientist receives White House recognition

Arjun Heimsath shows 'promising research career'

On Sept. 9, Arjun Heimsath, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, was one of 57 researchers to receive the 2003 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest national honor for investigators in the early stages of promising research careers who have also displayed leadership in their fields.


Left to right: John H. Marburger, III, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Arjun Heimsath; Arden L. Bement, Acting Director of the National Science Foundation. (photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA)

Heimsath, who was nominated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds his work, examines how the Earth's surface changes under the forces of climate, tectonics and human land management. John H. Marburger III, science advisor to President Bush and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, presented the PECASE awards at a ceremony at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

"At the awards ceremony, I was in the company of awesome scientists, and it was a humbling experience to be among them," says Heimsath. "I am stunned that the people at NSF thought so highly of my work that they nominated me. Then to be chosen to receive the PECASE by the Office of Science and Technology Policy validates my work in an amazing way."

Heimsath's research focuses on processes and rates of erosion caused by a wide variety of geomorphic forces (from landslides to chemical weathering). He is principally concerned with quantifying and predicting changes across the physical landscape using chemical soil analysis techniques he helped develop. Field work takes Heimsath and his students to the coastal ranges of California, Oregon and Alaska; to the Outback, the Top End and the southeast regions of Australia; to the high central Himalaya of Nepal and Tibet; and to the fields, brooks and mountains of northern New England.

"I feel deeply that my students need to be connected to the natural world," says Heimsath. "I integrate field work into each course I teach. Students need to get out and see how the land is sculpted, see how humans influence and change the land and our natural resources. A fundamental mission for me is to help cultivate environmental stewards."

According to the NSF website, PECASE, established in 1996, recognizes outstanding early-career scientists and engineers "who show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge." Eight federal departments and agencies annually nominate scientists and engineers from among the ranks that they provide funding to. NSF's PECASE nominees are chosen from those who have received grants from the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program in the same year. CAREER awards recognize and support activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

By SUSAN KNAPP

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Last Updated: 12/17/08