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SBU Geosciences Professor Receives NSF Award to Study Celestial Bodies

Jun 25, 2012 - 9:00:00 AM

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Dr. Timothy Glotch and his group use terrestrial analogs of Martian and lunar rocks to improve interpretation of remotely acquired data from spacecraft orbiting those planetary bodies. He is holding basaltic rock from Lonar Crater, India, which can provide insight into how impact processes affect the surface mineralogy of Mars and the moon.
STONY BROOK, NY, June 25, 2012 – Timothy Glotch, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University whose research has been featured in the journals Science, Nature and more, was selected to receive the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award for his research in identifying the mineral composition of planetary bodies using infrared spectrometers on orbiting spacecraft.

The award, given to promising young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both education and research, comes with a supporting five-year grant for approximately $494,000. Dr. Glotch’s project, “Fundamental Measurements of Mineral Optical Properties and Theoretical Treatment of Light Scattering at Infrared Wavelengths,” will be funded by the NSF through May 2017.

Dr. Glotch is also funded by NASA for several projects, including his work as Co-Investigator on the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, which is an instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that is currently orbiting the moon. He uses data from this research to discover new types of moon rocks and to study interesting features called “Lunar Swirls.” He also spends considerable time studying Mars and how meteorite impacts and water have changed the mineralogy and altered the landscape of the Martian surface over time.

“When our young, talented faculty researchers receive an Early Career Award it reflects the whole University,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “Professor Glotch’s work through this award, and his funding from NASA on the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, provide resources for him, and enrich the experience of our graduate students and undergraduate students who work and study with him. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and significant recognition, and we are very proud that he is able to accomplish so much here at Stony Brook.”

Dr. Glotch’s research plan for the five-year award includes two main topics: to determine the optical constants (infrared fingerprints) of minerals; and the utilization of newly generated optical constants to test a light-scattering model that has the potential to revolutionize how planetary scientists and astronomers analyze data acquired from planet and asteroid surfaces, interplanetary dust and dust disks around other stars.

“I am extremely gratified to receive the NSF CAREER Award,” said Dr. Glotch. “The data we generate through this work will contribute to studies of Mars, the moon, asteroids and other planetary systems,” he said. “It may also help improve global climate change models by improving the current understanding of the radiative effects of dust and aerosols in the atmosphere.”

Dr. Glotch leads the Vibrational Spectroscopy Laboratory at Stony Brook which will be utilized to acquire infrared spectra of approximately 30 minerals and to determine their optical constants using a computer model. Dr. Glotch, along with PhD student Jessica Arnold, has determined an efficient method to calculate the optical constants of low-symmetry minerals, which has historically been a difficult problem.

“I congratulate Dr. Glotch on one of the highest honors that can be attained by a junior faculty member,” said Dennis N. Assanis, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook. “This award will enable him and his research team to solve how infrared light is scattered from a planetary surface through a newer, very sophisticated model using a supercomputer with thousands of processors. This type of technique has the potential to fundamentally change how data is analyzed from spacecraft orbiting other planetary bodies.”

“This award will allow me to integrate my research, teaching and mentoring goals,” said Dr. Glotch, who, as part of this award, is developing a graduate level “Planetary Spectroscopy” course that will survey state-of-the-art techniques currently used to investigate other planetary bodies. The award will directly fund a graduate student and a postdoctoral researcher. He also has plans for a continuing education workshop for local high school Earth Science teachers who will have the opportunity to use real spacecraft data to investigate fundamental concepts focusing on the interactive roles of mineralogy, spectroscopy and planetary science; the material can then be incorporated into their lessons with high school students.

Glotch received his BA (1999) in Astrogeophysics from Colgate University and his PhD (2004) in Geological Sciences from Arizona State University. He has been a member of the faculty at Stony Brook since 2007. Additionally, Dr. Glotch has authored or co-authored more than 40 publications appearing in various journals, including: Science, Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geology, Physics and Chemistry of Minerals, Earth and Planetary Science Letters and more.

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© Stony Brook University 2013

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