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Geology & Geophysics Alumnus Honored by NASA for Distinguished Service

February 5, 2013

NASA will present E. Julius Dasch (PhD 1969, Geology & Geophysics) with its 2013 National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award at a ceremony on March 1. The award honors individuals whose lives and careers have had a long-lasting impact on science, engineering or education in a field related to aeronautic, aviation, or space. Previous awardees include former Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, John Glenn, and Sally K. Ride.

From 1988 to 2002, Dasch worked at NASA, where he was director of the NASA Space Grant and NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) – two of the largest higher education programs within the agency. NASA’s educational initiatives focus on teacher enhancement, curriculum development, educational technology, systemic or comprehensive programs, and mission-related research projects. Space Grant, modeled after the Land Grant and Sea Grant university programs, is in its twenty-fourth year, with consortium programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The consortia include more than 800 academic, industry, and government affiliates, and carry out programs in education, research, and public service. The twelve-year old NASA EPSCoR Program operates in twenty states.

My experience at Yale was the single, most transforming event of my academic life,” says Dasch. “It was not just the fantastic quality of the University or my department, or my education, but the interaction with my student colleagues. I stay in close communication with many of them to this day.”

After completing his PhD at Yale, Dasch was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra, and then taught geology and geochemistry courses at Oregon State University, Corvallis. At Oregon State he became widely known for his popular course (limited to 748 students), “Rocks and Stars,” designed for students not majoring in scientific or technical subjects. His research, conducted in Australia, South America, Greenland, Antarctica, Solomon Islands, Europe, Asia, Canada, and Mexico, as well as in the U.S., has primarily been in isotope geochemistry.

Dasch is author, co-author or editor of several volumes, including Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences, MacMillan Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences, A Dictionary of Space Exploration, and Explorers from Ancient Times to the Space Age. His more than 150 publications are in marine geochemistry, geochronology (the science of determining the age of terrestrial and lunar rocks and meteorites), and science education.

Dasch has served as chairman of the Geological Society of America (Cordilleran Section) and president of the Oregon Academy of Science. His honors include the International Astronautical Federation Frank J. Malina Medal for Space Education, the National Science Foundation/Department of the Navy Antarctic Service Medal, and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal. After his retirement from NASA, he was an adjunct professor of geology at his undergraduate alma mater, Sul Ross State University, in Alpine, Texas.