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April 24, 2007

Earth and atmospheric sciences celebrates 40th anniversary, outstanding alumni

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Science celebrated its 40th anniversary and honored three outstanding alumni on April 13.

The department also held a science symposium titled The Geosciences in Today's World. Timothy Killeen, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and president of the American Geophysical Union, was the keynote speaker. Thirteen alumni and former and current faculty members also gave talks.

The 2007 outstanding alumni were honored during the 40th anniversary banquet and awards ceremony in the Buchanan Suites of Ross-Ade Stadium. 

Recipients of the 2007 outstanding alumni awards are:

* Mark Lester from Oklahoma City, Okla., who is executive vice president of exploration for Chesapeake Energy Corp. Lester was one of the first employees when the corporation was founded and helped steer the company to where it stands today with a market cap on the New York Stock Exchange of $13 billion. Lester earned his bachelor's degree in engineering geology in 1975 and his master's degree in geophysics in 1977, both from Purdue.

* Michael E. Sabones from Leesburg, Ind., who is the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service's northern Indiana office in Syracuse. Sabones is a member of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Alumni Advisory Board and frequently lectures in the "Atmospheric Observations and Measurements" and "Freshman Seminar in Earth and Atmospheric Science" courses. Sabones earned a bachelor's degree in meteorology from Purdue in 1973.

* Dale S. Sawyer from Houston, who is a professor at Rice University. Prior to joining the faculty at Rice, Sawyer served as a research associate and scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas. His research interests include marine seismology and geodynamics. Sawyer earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics from Purdue in 1976 and earned his doctorate in marine geophysics from MIT in 1982.

Killeen presented "Our Crystal Ball for Planet Earth" as the keynote address of the symposium. The symposium presentations were followed by a poster session displaying the work of faculty and graduate students.

As senior scientist at the high-altitude observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Killeen leads an experimental and theoretical program in upper-atmospheric research.

Prior to joining the center, he was a professor of atmospheric and space sciences at the University of Michigan and served as director for the university's space physics research laboratory and as associate vice president for research.

Killeen has been awarded the excellence in teaching and excellence in research awards from the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan in addition to two NASA achievement awards.

He is a principal investigator and instrument developer for a space-based Doppler interferometer on the NASA TIMED spacecraft. He also is co-principal investigator for a new National Science Foundation science and technology center devoted to numerical modeling of space weather.

Killeen is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and has served as president of the space physics section of the American Geophysical Union and as editor in chief of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Purdue's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, originally called the Department of Geosciences, was founded in 1967 with five faculty members from the Department of Civil Engineering and four new hires. Today it has more than 40 faculty members and has granted more than 1,350 degrees to students. The department also has become more multidisciplinary in nature, with several faculty having joint appointments with other departments, to reflect the evolving nature of the geosciences and of science in general.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, (765) 494-2081,

Source: Claire Chandler, (765) 494-5206,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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