Terry Plank, a member of the Deep Carbon Observatory Science Advisory Committee, has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow
. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards $500,000 fellowships over five years with no strings attached. The unrestricted fellowships—often called “genius grants”—are awarded “to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."
Plank, a professor of geochemistry at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, investigates tectonic subduction zones, which are frequently associated with volcanoes. Plank uses the volcanoes as windows to study the chemical and physical forces deep below the surface. In early work, she analyzed trace metals in deep core samples from rock entering a subduction zone and compared them with magma ejected from associated volcanoes, finding that the magma unexpectedly includes materials from the subducted crust, rather than exclusively new rock formed from Earth’s mantle. More recently, she has demonstrated that the chemical compositions of volcanic rocks reveal the temperature at the point of rock formation, where the subduction plate intersects the mantle—a measurement essential for accurate modeling of tectonic geophysics.