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Spear Named Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Science Education at Rensselaer

April 27, 2009

Frank Spear, professor and head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been appointed as the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Science Education.

“Frank’s knowledge has been shared with generations of Rensselaer students. With great enthusiasm and deep personal experience and commitment, he has educated our students about the sophisticated history and formation of the world beneath our feet,” said Rensselaer Provost Robert Palazzo. “With his award-winning book and novel software, he has also enlightened generations of geologists around the world, while his personal research has led to many important discoveries that have enhanced our understanding of periods of Earth’s history that were previously unknown.”

This is the second of two distinguished professorships endowed by a gift from Edward P. Hamilton, Class of 1907 and former president of John Wiley & Sons publishing company.   The other professorship is currently held by Joseph Ecker, the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Mathematical Sciences.

Spear began his career at Rensselaer in 1985. He was named a full professor in 1988 and has been head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences since 1999. Before joining Rensselaer, Spear taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, both in geology.

Spear’s research to uncover the history of Earth’s formation has taken him around the world. His goal is to develop methods researchers can use to create a tectonic history of a terrain. His research looks at the record of various elements in metamorphic rocks to reconstruct a timeline of the rock’s formation. Thanks in large part to Spear’s research, geologists now understand that trace elements preserve the history of a rock to a much larger degree than more major elements like iron, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. 

Spear received the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) N.L.  Bowen award for his research leading up to the 800-page book Metamorphic Phase Equilibria and Pressure-Temperature-Time Paths, as well as the Mineralogical Society of America’s Dana Medal for his work on developing new techniques to read the history of the Earth through metamorphic rocks. He is also a fellow of AGU and an active teacher and mentor.

Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
Phone: (518) 276-6542
E-mail: demarg@rpi.edu