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One in 1,000: Holbrook named AGU Fellow

February 2, 2012
Man smiling
Steven Holbrook, a UW professor of geophysics, stands aboard the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth, which is owned by the National Science Foundation. Holbrook served as chief scientist during a 2008 research expedition in the Pacific Ocean, off Costa Rica. The research focused on studying the composition of the crust under the Costa Rican subduction zone, where the Cocos tectonic plate is diving under the Caribbean plate.

Each year, one in 1,000 members receives the call. This year, Steven Holbrook's name was chosen as one of the elite in the world of geophysics.

Holbrook, a University of Wyoming professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, was named a Fellow by the American Geophysical Union. In all, 61 Fellows were elected by AGU for 2012. Holbrook is recognized for his research in the acquisition and analysis of marine and onshore reflection and refraction seismic data.

"Top-flight departments expect AGU Fellows on their faculty," Holbrook says. "This is the start of something. I'm sure I won't be the last one on my faculty to receive this award."

Holbrook, who served as secretary of the seismology section of AGU a decade ago, says he considers this award as recognition from his peers and describes it as "a career achievement award for a body of work." He says he was nominated by a professor at Oregon State University and one in Paris, France.

Over the course of his career, Holbrook has studied topics as varied as continental breakup, volcanism and continental growth, physical oceanography and methane hydrates (methanes locked in ice that can serve as a potential energy source) -- on research cruises in such far-flung places as Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Newfoundland, Alaska, Costa Rica and New Zealand. He also first developed seismic oceanography, considered a new type of research in the world of seismology.

Holbrook describes what he does as akin to "taking a CT scan of the Earth."

The AGU was established in 1919 by the National Research Council and, for more than 50 years, operated as an unincorporated affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences. AGU is now a nonprofit organization dedicated to the furtherance of the geophysical sciences through the individual efforts of its more than 50,000 members, and in cooperation with other national and international scientific organizations.

"AGU congratulates its 2012 class of Fellows. The Fellows program recognizes AGU members who have made exceptional contributions to their fields as evaluated by their peers and vetted by section and focus group committees," reads a statement on AGU's website about this year's Fellows. "To qualify for consideration, nominees must be responsible for a major breakthrough, discovery, or paradigm shift in one of the Earth and space sciences."

"It's a great source of pride for UW to have faculty members of Professor Holbrook's caliber," says Myron Allen, UW's provost and vice president for academic affairs. "To his Wyoming colleagues -- and to the many students he has taught -- this honor seems overdue. But, in fact, he's one of the youngest of this year's honorees ... To be nominated and selected as an AGU Fellow recognizes the wide influence of one's work on this enormous community of scientists."

"I have received a lot of support from UW and from many post-docs and students over the past 15 years," Holbrook says. "That support has contributed directly to this award."

A black-tie ceremony will honor the new Fellows at the AGU meeting, scheduled during December, in San Francisco. Holbrook, who will receive a certificate and plaque, says he plans to attend.

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