Stacia Gordon, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has been selected for a prestigious international award for her geological research, the 2014 Young Scientist Award for the Structural Geology and Tectonics Division from the European Geosciences Union.
She will travel to Vienna in April to receive the award. She will also present a lecture at the conference concerning her research on partial melting of rocks under ultra high-pressure deep below the earth's surface. As described in her research, these processes contribute to the deterioration of mountain ranges.
"I'm happy and totally surprised to be recognized by the EGU," Gordon said. "There are so many amazing young scientists publishing interesting and thought-provoking studies that it is a true honor to receive the award."
Gordon, a faculty member in the College of Science's Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, grew up in Ohio. She first became interested in geology on family vacations to more mountainous western states. This led her to study geology and plate tectonics at Ohio University, followed by doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota and a post-doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
"I have to acknowledge all of the great mentors who have helped guide me throughout my career, including my PhD and post-doc advisors, Donna Whitney, Christian Teyssier and Brad Hacker," Gordon said. "They each inspired and motivated me to better understand different parts of Earth's evolution and put me on the road to success."
Gordon's doctoral advisor ultimately nominated her for the Young Scientists Award, which she will receive for her work on tectonics and structural geology. Her research focuses on partial melting and subduction, including how surface rocks descend through the Earth's layers and recrystallize at depth before being returned to the surface.
"Tectonic plates move and can interact with one another in a variety of ways," Gordon said. "Where plates come together, one plate may slip beneath another in what is called a subduction zone. Rocks from the crust and surface are carried along with the subducting plate deep into the earth. There, at great pressure, the rocks are partially melted, causing the rock to become less dense, rise through the mantle and return to the surface. Together, these processes are important in the generation and collapse of mountain belts all over the world."
Gordon's field research has taken her to Papua New Guinea, Norway and the foothills of the Himalayas, in pursuit of rocks that record a history of tectonic plate interaction. In addition to research, Gordon teaches introductory geology classes and upper-level classes in petrology and advanced tectonics.
"It is a great and rewarding challenge to get people interested in geology," Gordon said.
"Professor Gordon's research is a mark of the quality of professors and researchers at the University," Jeff Thompson, dean of the College of Science, said. "This award recognizes the quality of her work and its impact on the science of structural geology and tectonics."
The European Geosciences Union is an international non-profit organization based in Munich, Germany, dedicated to the pursuit of geosciences, planetary and space science research. Over 12,500 members conduct studies to benefit humanity. Annual awards are given to nominated scientists with outstanding research.