- 'Father Figure’ of Plate Tectonics Theory Wins Geology’s Highest Award
Forty years after helping to lead a revolution in the way scientists believe the planet’s surface was shaped, a University of Houston geologist was honored with his field’s most prestigious award.
The Geological Society of America announced in May that Professor Kevin Burke won this year’s Penrose Medal, the society’s highest award, for his pioneering research in plate tectonics.
The theory that the Earth’s crust was made up of a few massive plates whose movements helped explain earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain ranges and the movement of continents was first postulated in the 1960s. It is orthodoxy now, but most geologists at the time rejected it.
Burke was at the forefront of this paradigm shift and is considered a “father figure” of plate tectonic theory, said John Casey, chair of the UH geosciences department.
Two Professors Win NSM’s Highest Teaching Award
For making a difference in the classroom and connecting with students, two professors received the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics highest teaching award.
Randolph Thummel, professor of chemistry, and William Dupre, associate professor of geosciences, were awarded the 2007 John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award and were recognized at the college’s May commencement.
The Butler award is typically given to one faculty member, but this year the selection committee had two nominees with long track records of engaging students and sharing their enthusiasm for the subject matter they teach.
Pavlidis and Kakadiaris Receive Endowed Faculty Chair
Computer science professors Ioannis Pavlidis and Ioannis Kakadiaris were named Eckhard Pfeiffer Professors last year. The prize was created by Pfeiffer – the retired CEO of Compaq Computer and a member of the NSM Dean’s Advisory Board – to reward the college’s most distinguished computer science faculty.
The honor was intended for one faculty member, but both Kakadiaris and Pavlidis had such outstanding records in research that the award was split. Each will receive $25,000 annually.
Former Astronaut and UH Alum Urges Kids to Dream Big
When Bernard Harris encourages youth to reach for the stars, he is not just speaking metaphorically.
The University of Houston alum and former astronaut fulfilled his childhood dream of going to space. Now he inspires disadvantaged middle school students to dream big by kindling their interest in math and science.
This year Harris is launching nationwide the summer science camp he started for Houston-area students a decade ago.
Held every summer at UH, Harris’ camp proved so successful that ExxonMobil provided funding to expand the program to eighteen other universities throughout the country. The expanded program will reach more than 1,000 junior high students each year.