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National Academy of Sciences honors ASU professor for major contributions to science


2020 National Academy of Sciences Arthur L. Day Prize recipient, Lindy Elkins-Tanton. Photo by Jon Simpson

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January 22, 2020

The National Academy of Sciences has announced that Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton has been awarded the 2020 Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship.

The Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship was awarded to Elkins-Tanton for her lasting contributions to the study of the physics of Earth and for illuminating the early evolution of rocky planets and planetesimals. She will be awarded a $50,000 prize and funds to present a series of Day Lectures, which are provided by the Arthur L. Day Bequest.

“Professor Elkins-Tanton is richly deserving of this prestigious recognition. Her groundbreaking research advances our understanding of space, while her mentorship inspires the next generation of scientists. I can think of no one better suited to receive this award,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, the executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise and ASU’s chief research and innovation officer.

Elkins-Tanton is the world’s leading figure in the early evolution of rocky planets and planetesimals. She has produced high-impact publications on magma oceans, studied the formation of the Siberian flood basalts and how they triggered catastrophic climate change and the extinction event at the end of the Permian, and explored models of thermal processing on the early moon that may help us understand the complex history recorded in ancient lunar crustal rocks.

“Honestly I never thought I would be the kind of person who would win a prize like this because my career path has been unusual and because I’ve studied our Earth and planets across disciplines,” Elkins-Tanton said. “Because of this award, I’m encouraged to continue to pursue the questions that I think are the most important in science and I would encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

In addition to her faculty appointment with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, Elkins-Tanton is also the managing director and co-chair of the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, and she is the principal investigator for the ASU-led NASA Psyche Mission.

The National Academy of Sciences is honoring a total of 15 individuals with awards in recognition of their extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide range of fields spanning the physical, biological and medical sciences. In addition to Elkins-Tanton, award recipients include representatives from Yale University; Harvard University; Australian National University; Johns Hopkins University; Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Santa Barbara; and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Elkins-Tanton’s award will be presented on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C., at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting and will be available via live webcast.

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