SOCORRO, N.M., April 14, 1999 -- Dr. Allan L. Gutjahr, longtime professor of mathematics at New Mexico Tech, has been named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an honor limited to no more than 0.1 percent of the membership eligible for nomination to fellowship in any given year. Currently, the AGU has about 35,000 members with approximately 300 fellows.
The fellowship is awarded to scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in one or more branches of geophysics. Much of Gutjahr's research work involves applying statistical techniques to problems in hydrology.
The citation for Gutjahr reads: "Allan L. Gutjahr--for fundamental contributions in the application of statistical methods to subsurface hydrology and diverse collaborations on applications of geostatistics to geophysical problems."
He was informed of the award in a letter from John A. Knauss, president of the AGU, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The fellowship will be presented at an AGU conference later this year.
Gutjahr joined the New Mexico Tech faculty in 1971 and worked to establish a program in probability, statistics, and their applications. He was chairman of the Mathematics Department for three years and served for two-and-a-half years as Vice President for Academic Affairs and for six years as Vice President for Research, stepping down in 1997.
Gutjahr has been involved with mathematical research for virtually all of his professional life. "You can gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the basic elements of your field by the research you do," he once said. He also finds that "the hardest part of using a problem-solving approach is identifying the problem."
In his early days at Tech, Gutjahr collaborated on a research project with Dr. Lynn Gelhar, a New Mexico Tech hydrologist, with Gutjahr providing the statistical analysis. Much of his later research involved applying probability to hydrology problems, and this semester he is teaching a graduate course in hydrology with Dr. John Wilson.
But Gutjahr's reputation at Tech is based on more than his research. "He's tremendously respected by the faculty," said Dr. James Corey, professor of humanities and former Associate Vice President for Research and Academic Affairs.
That respect extended to the classroom: Gutjahr was one of the first members of Tech's faculty to be honored with an Outstanding Teaching award, in 1987, "and deservedly so," said Corey.
"Some people at Tech measure their success by how many students they fail," Corey said. "Allan's measurement is by how many of his students succeed and earn good grades that reflect their understanding. . . . And, I know he continues to have ties with a lot of students who have graduated from Tech, especially graduate students."
Corey also served with Gutjahr on the university's first Strategic Planning Committee. "His role became similar to that of the facilitator, a level head among the group," Corey said.
Gutjahr has roots in South Dakota, and grew up in a community similar in size to Socorro, whose population hovers at the 10,000 mark.
"I think he is very well suited to this size of town and school," Corey said. "At Tech, you have a chance to know the students and watch them mature from young freshmen to graduate students. You can't do that at larger schools, and yet Tech has all the excellence of the bigger universities," Corey said.
Gutjahr also cuts a somewhat colorful image. It's not unusual for him to come to class wearing a polka dot tie with striped suspenders and a brightly colored shirt. This, said Corey, fits in with Gutjahr's persona as an "extremely cheerful guy . . . he'll laugh at almost anything; and, of course, this is another of the reasons he can relate so well to the students."
This ties in with something Gutjahr said in a 1990 interview: "I get a lot of enjoyment out of what I do. People outside of science may not realize the sense of play involved in the field."
He also believes that research helps revitalize teaching. "I can take what I've done, and with modification, incorporate it into some of my courses," he said. "At the same time, I am often reminded of what Professor Emeritus Charles Moore--a New Mexico Tech Research Award winner and freshmen physics teacher par excellence--said about the importance of going back to our basic foundations in so much of what we do in our research."
Over the years, Gutjahr has conducted research funded by the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Bureau of Mines, and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.
He enjoys his associations with outside agencies, "because it gives me contact with people who are actually applying what is taught here," he said. "This helps make my teaching more relevant. But, most especially I enjoy my association with the excellent students and faculty at New Mexico Tech. When you work with quality, it makes work fun and interesting."
Gutjahr received his doctorate in applied and mathematical statistics from Rutgers University, his master's in operations research from Johns Hopkins University, and his bachelor's in mathematics from the University of Washington.
Before coming to Tech, he spent nine years as a researcher with Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey.
He and his wife, Peggy, live in Belen.