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Scientist Profiles


Most geologists can be forgiven for living in the past, but Dan Breecker is making a point of keeping focused on the present. Breecker, who joined the Jackson School of Geosciences as an assistant professor in 2009, concentrates on the interactions between climates, soils, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and his research is helping to…

Most of us learned in school that the Himalayan mountains were formed over millions of years as India plowed into Asia. As the two continued to pile into each other, the land in between crumpled, forming a landscape that makes mountaineers salivate. Geologists figured that as the crumpling progressed, a succession of faults opened up…

With Undersecretary of Energy Steven Chu calling for “widespread, affordable deployment” of carbon capture and storage technology within 8 to 10 years, the future looks bright for carbon sequestration researchers. But sequestration will only be viable if scientists can assure the public CO2 won’t leak back to the surface, or worse, into their drinking water…

James Bond had his Q. The Jackson School has Joel Johnson. No, he can’t supply you with a helicopter in a suitcase or rocket launching cigarettes. He does however have one of the coolest gadgets in the field of sediment transport: smart rocks. These are cyborg-like rocks that can sense accelerations in all three axes…

When it comes to heavy-duty computer modeling, there are the Armed Forces, the space program, and then rock physics experts, such as Kyle Spikes. Spikes, an assistant professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences, studies rock physics — the exploration of the physical behavior and properties of rocks — using computer resources to analyze seismic…

Austin, Texas, generally evokes images of live music, barbecue, and sweltering summers, not cutting-edge arctic research. And yet it’s home to Ginny Catania of the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), a promising young polar scientist at the forefront of glaciological research. “Not only is the polar landscape unusual, the environment is…

From the earliest days of the discovery of dinosaurs up to the present, birds have been at the center of scientific controversies in paleontology and evolutionary biology. Julia Clarke, an associate professor of paleontology at the Jackson School since the fall of 2008, explains part of the reason. Because birds are so apparently distinctive, explaining…

Richard Ketcham had a knack for computer programming, but didn’t want a career that would keep him stuck inside. Computers didn’t seem terribly fulfilling, especially since his main experience with them had been writing programs for things like balancing a company’s books. During his senior year at Williams College, a professor asked him to stay…

At the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, a few miles from the main University of Texas campus, Wonsuck Kim is ready to set up a grand, new scientific toy. The Jackson School of Geosciences is funding the construction of a flume tank, a large experimental fluid container that will be roughly the size of half of…

As a boy, Luc Lavier grew up in the Burgundy region of France, spending days searching for ammonites among the rocks of ancient oceans and beaches. His explorations sometimes unearthed meter-wide specimens of the fossilized marine shells, so local farmers had to help him remove them. Lavier has honed his youthful curiosities into an academic…

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