Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

Posts for faculty, students, and staff from the desk of Steve Graham...

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How our junior faculty make a difference...

ClockJanuary 30, 2020

Over the last two years, I’ve often written and spoken about all of the wonderful new faculty members who have joined Stanford Earth over the past few years.  The majority of them are pre-tenure assistant professors.  Among them are Simona Onori, who joined ERE in 2017, Aditi Sheshadri and Morgan O’Neill who both arrived in ESS in 2018, and Gabrielle Wong-Parodi who joined ESS in 2019 – just to name a few.

As 27% of our current faculty, their addition in many cases, but by no means all, represents expansion into new areas of science and engineering such as evolution of energy systems, battery engineering, atmospheric dynamics, behavioral decision science as applied to sustainability, and planetary science, among others.  While they bring plenty of energy and enthusiasm, we might ordinarily expect that new assistant professors would take a few years to make an impact on graduate applications.  So, I am very heartened to see that our new pre-tenure faculty are already having a notable effect in that arena.  

planetary science group
Planetary scientists from around the Bay Area met for the first time at Stanford last fall.

I haven’t assayed the whole school, but as I returned from winter break and began looking at Geological Sciences, my home department, I see that of 118 applications received for the 2020-2021 academic year, 43 of them specifically expressed interest in working with the four new pre-tenure faculty members in GS. In other words, 36% of applicants were drawn to just 23% of GS faculty.  That’s an extraordinary statistic, particularly since those four have been here anywhere from just one quarter to a year and a half. This bodes well not only for the future of these faculty members, but also for the School.

Now, three of the four, Mattieu Lapôtre, Laura Schaefer and Ayla Pamukcu, join new faculty member Sonia Tikoo-Schantz of Geophysics, in our growing faculty community in planetary science.  All four arrived in 2019. The opportunities for discovery and applications that are developing with the privatization of space exploration are tremendous.  

This fact isn’t lost on these new faculty, who are carving out intellectual space by proactively creating a larger community.  In November, this group organized and convened a meeting at Stanford of space/planetary scientists and engineers from across the greater Bay Area.  This first-of-a-kind meeting included some 80 people from Stanford, NASA-Ames, the UCs (Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Davis), and Lawrence Livermore.  Based on the success of the meeting in building community, the plan is to make this an annual event.  A very exciting indicator as we enter a new decade!

Steve Graham


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