Fred Phillips

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., Oct. 25, 2007 – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, has awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow to New Mexico Tech hydrology professor Fred M. Phillips. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

Phillips joins 470 other members who have been awarded the prestigious international honor this year by the AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

As part of the Section on Geology and Geography, Phillips was elected as an AAAS Fellow “for his pioneering interdisciplinary work with interactions between hydrology, geochemistry, and geology, especially cosmogenic isotopes and surface-exposure dating,” his citation states.

Phillips, who has been at New Mexico Tech for more than 25 years, has been the past recipient of numerous national and international awards for his research contributions made to the scientific fields of hydrogeology, geomorphology, and Quaternary geology, which covers the last 1.7 million years of Earth’s geologic history.

The Geological Society of America, for example, previously honored Phillips with its Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence, the O.E. Meizner Award for advances in hydrogeology, and also named him as one of the organization’s Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturers, a geological trifecta of sorts that no one else before or since has achieved.

Most of Phillips’ diverse research in the geosciences stems from a technique he pioneered of using measured ratios of radioactive isotopes of chlorine formed by cosmic-ray reactions in rocks and other landforms to more accurately date geological events of the past million years such as earthquakes, landslides, and glaciers.

In addition to his teaching and research at New Mexico Tech, Phillips also is the principal investigator and coordinator of the CRONUS-Earth Project, a multi-year, multi-disciplinary research project funded by the National Science Foundation. The acronym CRONUS stands for Cosmic-Ray Produced Nuclide Systematics.

The CRONUS-Earth Project is tasked with rigorously and systematically identifying and investigating sources of uncertainty in cosmogenic-nuclide production so as to improve the accuracy and reliability of geochronology techniques and other scientific applications that rely on analyses of cosmogenic surface exposure.

As a newly elected AAAS Fellow, Phillips will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering) commemorative pin next year at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

The tradition of naming AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, AAAS members can be considered for the rank of Fellow only if nominated by the Steering Committees of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s home institution), or by the AAAS Chief Executive Officer.