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Catlos reaps rewards of research

Monday, June 18, 2007

Catlos takes a break from field work at an amphitheater in Ephesus in Turkey.
Stillwater, Okla., June 18, 2007— It’s been an amazing year for Elizabeth Catlos, assistant geology professor, at Oklahoma State University.  She received the Geological Society of America’s “Top Young Scientist” award in October 2006, and two months later was selected by the Smithsonian Institute for a special publication on notable young people available late September 2007.  Her most recent award from the University of Texas at Austin—the Harrington Fellowship—will allow her to focus solely on the research in western Turkey she began while at OSU.

As a Harrington Fellow, Catlos will take a leave of absence from OSU for the 2007-2008 academic year to participate in the program at UT Austin.  She says it is a great opportunity to collaborate with other scientists while pursuing her career and research interests.  Only five faculty fellows are awarded each year.  The fellowship includes a stipend that will cover her salary and medical benefits.  And, she was awarded a research stipend and funds to support a seminar series and a student.  OSU graduate student, Courteney Baker, will work with Catlos at UT while pursuing her graduate degree.

In her research, Catlos applies geochemical techniques to address basic questions about how the Earth’s crust reacts to dynamic processes.  Her research is centered around three major themes in diverse field areas:  (1) deciphering the reason for large-scale crustal extension in western Turkey; (2) understanding the evolution of the Himalayas; and (3) developing the tectonic history of India’s Southern Granulite Terrain.  The Harrington Fellowship allows Catlos access to specialized equipment and faculty within the Jackson School of Geosciences needed to advance the research.

In the summers of 2005 and 2006, Catlos conducted field work in the Menderes Massif and collected over 200 rock specimens. Work in the UT Electron Microbeam Laboratory and the High Resolution CT Scanning Facility will help Catlos better understand the geochemical and petrological history of these specimens.  She will then organize a symposium on the “Geology of the Aegean” and invite speakers from a variety of fields concerned with understanding the basic geology of the Aegean, as well as the area’s geological-archeological history and natural hazards.

The Aegean has been a locus devastating natural disasters, including recent earthquakes as well as enormous historical volcanic eruptions.  The symposium would appeal to a large segment of UT faculty and students interested in the importance of this particular area in understanding the Earth’s history.  Catlos also has international partners and U.S. collaborators in place to organize a workshop and field excursion to western Turkey.  The trip could lead to a UT research program in the Aegean and increased contacts with Turkish scientists.

Catlos envisions the Harrington Fellowship as a vehicle for developing new ideas and obtaining new data for work supported by the National Science Foundation to answer a basic research question with real-world application.  “It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down,” says Catlos.  “I may not have an opportunity like this again.”  She recently presented her research in Vienna with a colleague and has plans to present at other international conferences.  She will attend a conference at Cambridge this summer and will return to western Turkey to continue her research.

“I’m an adventurer,” says Catlos.  “I always wanted to be like Indiana Jones.  And I have been able to do that.”

Oklahoma State University—an active 100M+ research university located in Stillwater, Oklahoma—is home to more than 500 researchers working in the fields of biotechnology, energy, nanotechnology, sensors and more to develop innovative solutions for application and commercialization in the global marketplace.  For more information about OSU’s research programs, visit

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