90 Years of GPS

Highlights from nine decades of alumni impact

In May of 2017, the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) celebrated its 90th anniversary. During those 90 years, GPS faculty have contributed greatly to our understanding of our planet and solar system. From the chronology of solar system evolution to the dynamics of earthquakes to the history of Earth’s oxygenated atmosphere, we have transformed the ways we think and talk about our home in the universe.

It would have been easy and perhaps natural to observe the division’s 90th anniversary by focusing on faculty achievements as we have in the past. But we took a different course with this celebration because two of our graduates turned 100 this year—Mel Levet and Walter Munk—and that seemed reason enough to do something special. As former students, they provided the incentive to focus on our alumni rather than our faculty as we had done for the 75th.

Our alumni have profoundly shaped the fields they entered and will continue to do so in the future. From Walter Munk, whose research laid the foundation for modern oceanography, to Alice Michel, a recent undergrad alumna who rewrote the Wikipedia entry for geobiology, an impressive group of GPS alumni stepped forward to talk about what they learned at Caltech and how they applied it later. Reflecting the array of options in the division, the lineup featured alumni who have gone on to be geobiologists, geochemists, geologists, geophysicists, and planetary scientists as well as investment managers, earthquake engineers, and environmental engineers.

Of course, we were limited by the format—a single day of talks, exhibits, and lab tours. That is why I am excited that this issue of Techer showcases our GPS alumni in all their diversity. As you read through the brief descriptions of who they are and what they have achieved, I hope you are as impressed as I am with the depth and breadth of their accomplishments.

   —John P. Grotzinger
Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology; 
Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair, 
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences


Highlights of GPS Alumni Achievements