September 2020 - Letter from the Directors

September Letter from the Directors
Scientists including Carnegie's Jaehan Bae imaged GW Orionis, a triple star system with a peculiar inner region. Unlike the flat planet-forming discs we see around many stars, GW Orionis features a warped disc, deformed by the movements of the three stars at its centre. This composite image shows both the ALMA and SPHERE observations of the disc. Credit: ESO/Exeter/Kraus et al., ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
Tuesday, September 29, 2020 

A Month to Celebrate

September is the month of postdoc appreciation week.  We celebrate the contribution our postdocs make to the research at the Earth and Planet’s Laboratory (EPL) throughout the year, but postdoc appreciation week gives us the opportunity to make our thanks for their role more obvious.  In years past, postdoc celebrations have included tours of various local sites such as the Capitol and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, painting lessons, and Pictionary competitions involving words from our science pursuits that are unlikely to be found in most other such competitions.

The staff scientists of EPL shared this "Thank You" message with our Postdoctoral Fellows during Postdoc Appreciation Week.

This year, the celebrations have for the most part been virtual and have included such important life skills as cocktail mixing and a trivia contest.  Perhaps the more important way we have been able to celebrate our postdocs is by providing lab access, under PPE and social distancing requirements, and for our theorists a crack team of IT support to enable both their computational work and all the Zoom meetings that have replaced face-to-face conversations for the time being.  As a result, most of the research activities that normally occur on campus are continuing, albeit with Zoom and various remote instrument operation programs substituting for the hands-on training normally provided to our postdocs.  The ease with which they have adapted to these conditions is remarkable, and just confirms what we always suspected – EPL postdocs are the best.

(Re)connecting with the World

Summer provided us with a relatively relaxed schedule that let us dramatically expand our skills in various virtual communication platforms.  With the arrival of September, we have now been able to put those skills to use with the initiation of our weekly seminar program that has taken on a new structure following the formation of EPL.  Instead of separate seminar programs for our two former departments, the Monday slot is now a department colloquium where remote communication allows us to enjoy speakers from all over the world – with some time zone accommodation.  The Thursday seminar slot will be used starting in October to pursue single themes per month starting with general coverage and then narrowing in on the details. The October theme is Redox Controls on Mantle Processes, click here to see all upcoming events. 

On September 24, Director Richard Carlson presented Earth's First Crust to a virtual crowd of more than 300 people.

We also have been able to start up our Neighborhood Lecture series again, also remotely. The first was “attended” by more than twice as many people as our auditorium can accommodate and included participants from as far away as Australia.  Two more exciting presentations will be appearing in early November, one by our own Lara Wagner in the Carnegie Science Fall series on November 10, and our second Neighborhood Lecture of the season by Sarah Stewart, a former Geophysical Laboratory postdoc now a Professor at the University of California, Davis and a recent winner of the MacArthur Award.  Sarah will be presenting “A New Creation Story for the Earth and Moon” on November 12. 

Remote communications of this nature dramatically expand the audience we can reach, both technical specialists and the general public, and will definitely be one of the “innovations” that will continue after the coronavirus pandemic is long gone.

Richard Carlson, Director, Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory
Carnegie Institution for Science

Michael Walter, Deputy Director, Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory
Carnegie Institution for Science 


September 2020 Newsletter