College of Geosciences Bestows 2017 Highest Honors to Three Exemplary Recipients

Oct 13, 2017

Each distinctly renowned for their geosciences expertise, service to the Aggie family and legacy contributions to science, three award recipients have been named by the Texas A&M University College of Geosciences. Each recipient will be recognized on Nov. 10 at the College of Geosciences Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony.

Dr. Gerald North, Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography, has been awarded the Michel T. Halbouty Geosciences Medal. As a Texas A&M faculty member since 1986 and head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences from 1995 to 2003, North tirelessly made significant contributions to climate science, communicating earth sciences to the public, and the long-term success of the department.

The department’s “transformation from a conventional meteorology department to a comprehensive atmospheric science department, with expertise in virtually all aspects of the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, is due in large part to his efforts,” said Dr. Kenneth P. Bowman, David Bullock Harris Professor of Geosciences in atmospheric sciences. “The department owes much of its current success to the commitment of Dr. North to academic and scientific integrity.”

North was also a driving force behind the Tropical Rain Measuring Mission (TRMM), “one of the most important satellites ever launched to study the earth system,” said Dr. Edward Zipser, University of Utah atmospheric sciences professor and former Texas A&M atmospheric sciences faculty member. A joint effort between the U.S. and Japan, TRMM was a pioneering effort to understand the atmospheric branch of the hydrological cycle, particularly in the tropics. Dr. North was co-creator of the project and helped lead it for the next 30 years. “Without the leadership and persuasive powers of Jerry North, TRMM would never have made it,” Zipser said.

“Jerry North is a scientist of the first order who has devoted himself tirelessly to his department, his college, his university, his profession, and to the world,” said Dr. H. Joseph Newton, senior professor of statistics and retired deal of the Texas A&M College of Science. “We are very lucky he chose to come to Texas A&M.”

Dr. Gerald North, Kristian Siem and Austin Heider, College of Geosciences 2017 award recipients.

Dr. Gerald North, Kristian Siem and Austin Heider, College of Geosciences 2017 award recipients.

Kristian Siem, chairman of Siem Industries Inc., an industrial holding company engaged in the oil and gas services industries, ocean shipping, solar farms, ship building and financial investments, has been recognized with the Geosciences Innovator Award.

For the past three decades, Siem has been instrumental in the long-term success of the JOIDES Resolution research drill ship and it scientific operations, which Texas A&M has continually managed, now through the International Ocean Drilling Program. Currently a resident of London, Siem is known for his long-standing commitment to the JOIDES Resolution, currently owned by Overseas Drilling Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Siem Offshore. He has helped ensure the international science community’s continued access to the ship’s capabilities, said Dr. Bradford M. Clement, IODP director of science Services and Professor of Geology and Geophysics at Texas A&M.

The resulting research programs “have completely redefined the understanding of our planet,” and “none of these discoveries would have been possible without a drilling platform to provide access to the subseafloor,” Clement said. The ship has been owned by various entities since the 1980s, and Siem was instrumental in keeping it a research vessel, Clement said.

Siem’s innovative approach to supporting the JOIDES Resolution includes leading and prioritizing a culture of safety and professionalism, actively minimizing environmental impacts, and navigating complex logistical working arrangements to keep the research ship financial solvent, wrote one of his award nominators.

Austin Heider, Division Manager of Remediation and Assessment at W&M Environmental Group, has been awarded the Geosciences Young Alumni Award. Heider received a bachelor’s of environmental geosciences from Texas A&M in 2010.

Heider “has been an enthusiastic, eloquent, and reliable partner” to the Environmental Studies Program’s efforts to prepare students for successful careers, said Dr. Christian Brannstrom, director of Environmental Programs and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Geosciences. Through serving on career panels Heider has helped students understand environmental consulting as a career path, describing his projects, typical workday and the skills required for success. “He communicates well with students and provides clear examples about the field,” Brannstrom said.

Heider’s input on needed Environmental Programs curriculum changes, which were implemented in 2017, was invaluable and “key to these major curricular accomplishments,” Brannstrom said. “He offered relevant and actionable advice, drawing from his experiences in ESAs, the environmental consulting field, and as a student in our college.”

“Austin is an accomplished Environmental Consultant whose clients routinely acknowledge the high level of interaction and support they receive from him,” said Nic Andreani, P.E., president of W&M Environmental Group, LLC. “He is an impressive problem solver who is always able to address complex issues with strategy and confidence. He mentors junior staff and has developed a rigorous training program to help them succeed in their careers.”

For more details on the college’s awards, read about our awards and recognitions.

By Leslie Lee ’09