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Arizona State University students impress the American Geophysical Union

March 28, 2008

Four graduate students from Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration were honored with Outstanding Student Paper Awards for their presentations at the 2007 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting held in San Francisco.

Kevin Eagar, Kimberly Genareau, Nicholas Schmerr and Olaf Zielke were each recognized as among the best of a strong group of student presenters at the conference.

Eagar presented his paper "Receiver function imaging of upper mantle discontinuities beneath the Oregon High Lava Plains and surrounding regions" in the seismology section of the conference. He focused on natural-source seismic imaging of Earth's crust and upper mantle.

"I've been going to AGU meetings for four years now, and this is the first award that I've won," says Eagar, also a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. "It really is an honor to have my work recognized by peers who I admire greatly. I appreciate the instruction and support from all of my past and present advisers, especially Matt Fouch and David James."

Associate Professor Matt Fouch, Eagar's doctoral adviser, says, "I'm elated to see Kevin's research recognized as some of the best student work at the AGU meeting. His initiative and dedication to develop new approaches for analyzing large seismic datasets are clearly valued by the scientific community. It's also very impressive that four School of Earth and Space Exploration students brought home awards from this AGU meeting, which is one of the largest Earth-sciences meetings in the world. This achievement is yet another demonstration of the first-rate graduate students we have."

Genareau, who is [ch1] working on her doctorate in geological sciences, was awarded honorable mention through the MARGINS program, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that seeks to facilitate outstanding interdisciplinary research on continental margins. Her AGU paper, presented in the volcanology, geochemistry, and petrology section, was "Constraining Pre-eruptive Pressure/Temperature Variations, Transition From Chamber to Conduit, and Crystal Growth Rates: a SIMS Examination of Plagioclase Phenocrysts." The judges said it was "one of the best student presentations. Novel, interesting topic. Excellent delivery."

Genareau's research focuses on the geochemical analyses of volcanic phenocrysts in order to use small-scale geochemical changes to understand large-scale volcanic processes.

Schmerr, who is in his final year of his doctoral program, presented his paper "Upper mantle discontinuity topography from thermal and chemical heterogeneity" in the study of the Earth's deep interior (SEDI) section. His talk was based partially on his publication in Science last October, and on his newer research.

Schmerr studies the deep Earth using seismic waves to image the structure, thermal state, and composition of the interior. He will be defending his dissertation this summer before heading off to Washington D.C. in the fall to become a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

"It's awesome that AGU has highlighted Nick's presentation with this award," says Ed Garnero, an associate professor and Schmerr's advisor. "Nick's research is a relatively new direction for me, and I must say, primarily developed and steered by his own hard work and curiosity. To see the community embrace the ideas he's developed, in both this award and also his recent Science paper, is a testament to the wisdom and intuition Nick employs in his work. From his research, we now know that Earth's upper mantle is far more complex in its chemistry than we once believed, and intimately related to the convection motions of the mantle rock."

Zielke, who focuses on numerical earthquake simulations,  is a fourth-year graduate student working toward his doctorate in geology and geophysics.

His paper "Effect of Fault Roughness on Scaling Relationships Among Earthquake Magnitude and Rupture Characteristics" was presented in the tectonophysics section.

Zielke is a third-year AGU presenter, but a first-time award-winner. "It's a great feeling to be acknowledged in such a way, very motivating," he says. "Winning not only one but four of these awards shows how strong the graduate program of the School of Earth and Space Exploration is."

The Outstanding Student Paper Award winners will be recognized in an upcoming publication of Eos, the weekly newspaper of AGU.

AGU is a scientific society with more than 50,000 members. This year, student awards were given in 19 different focus groups and sections with about 160 student receiving awards.