Message from the Chair

Greetings, alumni and friends,

This year has been unprecedented to say the least. The ongoing pandemic has affected and continues to impact the department in many ways. In March, research activities were shut down and have been cautiously revived since early June. Also in March, faculty, staff, and students had to switch from in-person to remote instruction within just a couple of weeks. The college and the university worked hard to resolve numerous issues ahead of the fall semester and prepare for various scenarios of how the future might unfold. 

During the fall semester, I have been heartened to see our community working together to maintain a safe and productive educational environment. Everybody is striving to adhere to health and safety guidelines; our instructors and their assistants are finding new ways to teach, both in person and remotely; and our staff is making sure we all have the tools and support we need.

Concurrently, the Black Lives Matter movement has had a major impact on how we understand social justice. Why do we, as a department, need to actively address racism and what actions can we take? As Chancellor Andrew Martin noted in a message to the WashU community, moving toward diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it also improves performance and makes us “more empathetic, better problem solvers, better communicators, better teachers, better friends, better colleagues, and better citizens.”

As a department, we are committed to making our community more diverse and inclusive. Actions that we plan to take include attracting and supporting faculty, staff, and students from Black and other minority communities; inviting more speakers from minority communities; and continuing to educate ourselves about racism and how to address it. I also encourage you to advocate and vote for social justice measures in your own communities. Finally, I urge all of us to learn how to have a meaningful and respectful dialogue with people who hold views different from our own. This is not easy, but I believe that, in the long term, this is the only path toward a diverse and inclusive community.

With warmest regards,
Slava Solomatov

Bethany Ehlmann, AB 2004

Bethany Ehlmann describes her journey from WashU to leading mission teams and shaping science policy.

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Rachel Gesserman, MA 2011

For Rachel Gesserman, science education and outreach is a passion as well as a practice.

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Keith Koper, PhD 1998

Keith Koper keeps busy as a professor of geology at the University of Utah as well as Utah's primary state seismologist.

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Awards & Notables

Complete List of Awards

Raymond E. Arvidson

James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor Arvidson and the Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit and Opportunity) team received the Distinguished Science Award from the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Club.

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Anne M. Hofmeister

Research Professor Hofmeister won a 2020 Professional Excellence Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG).

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Bradley L. Jolliff

Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Jolliff was awarded the 2020 Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

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Katharina Lodders

Research Professor Lodders was selected for the 2021 Leonard Medal by the Meteoritical Society.

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Kun Wang

Assistant Professor Wang won the European Association of Geochemistry’s 2020 Houtermans Award.

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Michael E. Wysession

Professor Wysession was appointed editor in chief of Perspectives of Earth and Space Scientists, a new peer-reviewed journal from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

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Degrees Conferred


Bachelor's Degrees

AB in Environmental Earth Sciences

  • Shoshana Harriet B. Grossman
  • Miles Kauffman Johnson
  • Erin Vanessa Lust
  • Samuel Wulff Movius
  • Emily Nelson

AB in Geochemistry

  • Hannah Elaine Bloom

AB in Geology

  • Anna Elise Baker
  • Joshua Waddell
  • John Griggs Worrall IV

Master's Degrees


  • Mattison Barickman
  • John Christian
  • Greg Ledingham
  • Zongshan Li
  • Mason Neuman
  • Nadia Sae-Lim
  • Seth Wood

Doctoral Degrees


  • Melody Eimer
    The Seismicity and Shallow Structure of the Forearc and Incoming Plate at the Mariana Subduction Zone
  • Timothy Hahn Jr.
    Applications of Big Data Analytics in Planetary Science: Novel Methods for Investigation and Classification of Planetary Materials
  • Xiaochen Mao
    Internal Structures and Spin Evolutions of Small Bodies in the Solar System and Their Geophysical Implications: A Case Study on Ceres, Vesta, and Arrokoth

Behrensmeyer was elected to the National Academy of Sciences this year. She also recently won the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s Romer-Simpson Medal, the Paleontological Society Medal, and the National Academy of Sciences' G. K. Warren Prize for contributions to understanding how environmental factors drive evolution.

Kay Behrensmeyer

AB 1967

Koretsky won the 2020 Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership award.

Carla Koretsky

AB 1992

Larsen was named a GSA fellow in 2019 and spent 2020 in Joensuu, Finland, as a Fulbright-Saastamoisen Fellow in Environmental Science, working on evaluating hydrologic and climate controls on methane and carbon dioxide emissions from boreal peatlands.

Laurel Larsen

AM 2003

Valdes was awarded the John Caldwell Meeker Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Field Museum of Chicago. She moved to Chicago right before lockdown, where she still has limited access to the Field Museum and is continuing her studies of calcium isotopes in HEDs and micrometeorites.

Maria Valdes

MA 2014

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