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