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Undergraduate Research Fund Honors Retiring Professor Bill Carlson

William Carlson with students Elizabeth Hatley and Eric Kelly in the Austrian Alps in 2008.

After serving as an icon on the Forty Acres for more than 30 years, Jackson School of Geosciences professor William Carlson retired in August 2014.

Carlson, a petrologist and geochemist who held the Peter T. Flawn Centennial Chair in Geology, joined the faculty of UT-Austin’s Department of Geological Sciences in 1980 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and a doctorate from the University of California–Los Angeles.

With professors Tim Rowe and John Kappelman, Carlson established the High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility (UTCT), the nation’s first X-ray CT facility dedicated to and optimized for scanning geological specimens. UTCT has grown into a national resource shared by a variety of institutions around the globe. It has been supported by the National Science Foundation since 1999. For these efforts and for other achievements in mineralogical research, Carlson was awarded the Mineralogical Society of America Dana Medal in 2005.

He served as chair of the Department of Geological Sciences and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Natural Sciences before leading the team that created the organizational charter establishing the Jackson School of Geosciences as an autonomous college-level component of UT-Austin.

Carlson’s dedication to teaching undergraduate and graduate students produced numerous departmental teaching awards, induction into the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers and selection for the Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Texas System.

Carlson with the undergraduate Honors Research Program graduates at commencement in 2014 (left to right: Julie Zurbuchen, Wesley Neely, Tiffany Kocis, Carlson, Nicole Kurka, Aaron Salin, Audrey Eljuri and Daniel Le).

Despite his transition to emeritus status, Carlson’s legacy will live on through a new endowment that supports undergraduate geoscience research. Carlotta Chernoff (B.S. ’92, M.A. ’95) has made a leading gift to establish the William D. Carlson Undergraduate Research Program Fund. This endowment will ensure that undergraduate students at the Jackson School can continue to take part in research experiences that enrich their academic studies and career trajectories.

One area directly impacted by this endowment is the department’s Undergraduate Honors Research Program. This unique program trains undergrads to conduct their own independent research in collaboration with the JSG’s outstanding faculty and research scientists. Carlson was the founder of the program and codirector until his retirement. It remains one of his great passions.

“I am thrilled to be able to establish this endowment in honor of Dr. Carlson,” Chernoff said. “I cannot think of a more appropriate way to acknowledge his legacy than by continuing to provide undergraduate students with access to rewarding research opportunities. I know first-hand that these kinds of research experiences can have a lasting impact on a student’s personal and professional development.”

To make a contribution to the William D. Carlson Undergraduate Research Program Fund, please contact Belle German at 512-471-1993 or bgerman@jsg.utexas.edu, or Karen Cochran at 512-471-6010 or kcochran@jsg.utexas.edu. You also may visit www.jsg.utexas.edu/alumni/support to make a gift online. Please indicate that the gift is for the Carlson endowment.