Saturday, May 17, 2008

UA ensures two prominent scientists will stay

The University of Arizona is working hard to keep two prominent scientists on campus.

Planetary scientist Peter Smith, principal investigator of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission, has been named the first Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Integrative Science, which is established to reward top faculty in transformative science.

Smith is responsible for all aspects of the $420 million Phoenix Mars Mission and his team will control the lander from the UA’s Science Operations Center in Tucson after it lands on Mars on May 25.

Meanwhile, UA administrators agreed to construct a new $90 million building housing environmental researchers from several departments, hire more faculty in environmental science and give a 22 percent salary boost to Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, who co-authored last year's IPCC climate change report that shared in the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Peck was a finalist for a position at the University of Wisconsin, but will stay at UA.

However, funding for the UA's proposed Environmental and Natural Science Building is stuck in the state legislature due to the budget shortfall, so it's not yet clear how the university will follow through on its commitment.

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