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ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration appoints new director

portrait of Lindy Elkins-Tanton
April 23, 2014

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, an expert in planet formation and evolution, has been named director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Elkins-Tanton, whose appointment takes effect on July 1, comes to ASU from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., where she served as director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. There, she was responsible for leading the department in the pursuit of ‘big’ science questions, high risk investigations and long-term research.

“Dr. Elkins-Tanton’s expertise, experience and vision fit perfectly with the core strengths that the School of Earth and Space Exploration have established in the geological sciences, astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology,” said Ferran Garcia-Pichel, dean of natural sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The school is at the forefront of developing new transdisciplinary links among the sciences. We are fortunate to attract this exceptional scientist to lead it.”

As a researcher, Elkins-Tanton’s own interests are interdisciplinary in nature. Her scientific studies explore planetary formation, magma oceans and subsequent planetary evolution, formation of large volcanic provinces and interactions between silicate planets and their atmospheres. After graduating from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s in geochemistry, she spent eight years working in business, with five years spent writing business plans for young high-tech ventures, before returning to MIT for her doctorate. She went on to pursue research opportunities at Brown University, then joined the MIT faculty. Within 10 years of completing her doctorate, as an associate professor in geology, she was recruited to the directorship position at Carnegie.

According to Elkins-Tanton, ASU and the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) appealed to her for being unique in academia in their vision and action.

“At SESE, I am looking forward to working more with students, and to helping the fantastic faculty bring their transdisciplinary scientific and engineering research to the next level. With the size and resources of the school, SESE is a leader in Earth and space research, and is poised for more. The energy and direction at ASU is compelling, and I am eager to join the movement,” said Elkins-Tanton.

Elkins-Tanton has received numerous scholarly honors, including being named a two-time National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow and serving on the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey Mars panel. In 2008, she was awarded a five-year National Science Foundation CAREER award, and in 2009, was named Outstanding MIT Faculty Undergraduate Research Mentor. She was awarded the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas prize and the second edition of her six-book series, “The Solar System,” a reference series for libraries, was released in 2010. She was named the Astor Fellow at Oxford University in 2013.