Two Professors Garner Top Awards At Graduation

Two Professors Garner Top Awards At Graduation

Mark Person, Kevin Kirk Get Named Distinguished Faculty

Each year, Tech recognizes outstanding research and teaching by a faculty or staff member of the Institute. 

Dr. Mark Person of the Hydrology Program is the winner of the 2016 Distinguished Researcher Award. Dr. Kevin Kirk of the Biology Department is the winner of the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award. Both awards include a framed certificate and $1,500.

Dr. Mark Person

The recipient of the Distinguished Research Award is chosen by a committee of Tech faculty and researchers from a list of people from the entire Tech campus nominated by their colleagues.

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Dr. Mark Person (center), with President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez (left) and V.P. of Research Dr. Van Romero.


Prof. Mark Person of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science was nominated by six distinguished North American scientists representing two generations and several scientific disciplines drawn from government and academia.

Dr. Person has a long history with New Mexico Tech. He completed his master’s at Tech in the 1980s, then returned for a sabbatical leave from the University of Minnesota in the late 1990s. He joined the Tech faculty in 2009.  He recently became the director of Tech’s internationally recognized Hydrology Program.

Dr. Person works mostly at the intersection of hydrology and geology, examining the effect of geological processes on hydrology, and vice versa. His primary tool is computer simulation supported by observations in the field. 

            With this approach he has examined and explained the origin of petroleum reservoirs and ore deposits, the co-evolution of tectonics and groundwater flow, carbon sequestration, and induced seismicity. For example, Dr. Person made significant strides studying new carbon sequestration technology to help moderate climate change by storing CO2 underground. Regarding induced seismicity he conducted new research on small earthquakes caused by the injection of fluids associated with petroleum production, carbon sequestration and waste disposal.

            Dr. Person also examined the relationship between groundwater and advancing glacial ice during the last ice age, where the weight of the ice controls groundwater flow. His work has led to new understanding of groundwater in glaciated regions in the North American interior and explains the origin of large off-shore, submarine freshwater deposits found off the coast of New England and New York. Together with colleagues he then looked for similar data around the planet and discovered that, due to changing sea level, vast offshore freshwater resources are common for certain geologic environments. He presented his finding in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. This has tremendous implications for coastal areas around the globe.

Dr. Person is also known as a prolific gardener. He regularly shares the bounty of his harvest each fall with his students and colleagues in MSEC and across campus.

Dr. Kevin Kirk

Dr. Kevin Kirk is an associate professor in the Biology Department. He earned his bachelor’s in botany from Oregon State University in 1980, his master’s in zoology from Washington State University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Dartmouth College in 1988. After completing post-docs at the University of Michigan and the University of Kentucky, he joined our faculty in 1992.

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Dr. Kevin Kirk (left) being introduced as the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award winner by Dr. Warren Ostergren, V.P. of Academic Affairs.


Dr. Kirk teaches courses in ecology, environmental toxicology, evolutionary biology, biology of aging, oceanography, and advanced population and community ecology.

This year, Tech students and alumni nominated 24 faculty members for the Distinguished Teaching Award. After a careful review, a committee of past winners recommended Dr. Kirk for this award based on the tremendous amount of support from students.

The committee saw clearly that Dr. Kirk is an excellent educator, tirelessly helping students achieve their potential. One student said it best: “Dr. Kirk is an extremely engaging lecturer who is able to communicate ideas, whether simple or complex, in an understandable and memorable way. He truly cares about teaching his students the classes’ particular subject matter as well as skills that are broadly useful in science and technical work.”

Other students called him “an excellent human being,” and “an inspired teacher.”

– NMT –