Wayne State University

NSF CAREER award to Wayne State University aims to determine causes of seismic anisotropy

DETROIT – Wayne State University’s Sarah Jo Brownlee, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the foundation’s most prestigious accolade for up-and-coming young faculty members.

Brownlee, who joined the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011, received the grant totaling more than $520,000 for her proposal, "Seismic Anisotropy, Symmetry and Structure - Translating Laboratory Measurements into Seismic Interpretations."

Along with a team of graduate scholars, Brownlee will use the five-year award to continue her research on the causes of seismic anisotropy — a property of Earth materials where seismic waves travel at different speeds depending on the direction of wave propagation — in the lower continental crust of the Earth. Brownlee will focus her research on gneiss domes in New Hampshire and Vermont.

According to Brownlee, this award will fund much more than research. The star faculty member has already developed the structure of a new WSU geology course that will immerse undergraduate students from all areas of study in geological fieldwork and research. The “Team Research” course aims to increase the number and diversity of undergraduate students participating in research at an urban university, and increase the diversity of undergraduate geology majors and ultimately spark their interest in pursuing a graduate degree. Team Research will be built around a tiered peer-mentoring system, where equal proportions of introductory, intermediate, and advanced undergraduate students work in teams, during a semester long course where they will design and implement a field research project relevant to the scientific objectives of Brownlee’s study. 

“This award is a tremendous confidence boost,” Brownlee said. “It’s great to know that not only does the NSF believe in my research, but they’re willing to back me up on it.”

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

The award number for this National Science Foundation grant is 1454829. 

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.