• John Grotzinger, Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology, became the chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) on September 1.

GPS Names a New Division Chair

John Grotzinger, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology, has been named the new chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS). With his selection formally approved by the Board of Trustees earlier this year, Grotzinger took the helm of the division on September 1. He will replace current division chair Ken Farley, the W. M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry.

Grotzinger, who had previously served as both a visiting associate professor at Caltech in 1996 and a Moore Distinguished Scholar in 2004, joined the faculty and the division in 2005. His research is focused on the early environmental evolution of both Earth and Mars. By working to understand the chemical and physical conditions of the early oceans and atmosphere on our planet, Grotzinger's group has been able to determine the influence of those conditions on microbial evolution and the emergence of animals. He also works as the project scientist of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, whose Curiosity rover has been exploring the Red Planet since 2012, gaining insights into how water was involved in the early history of Mars and what its potential role might have been in supporting microbial habitability, had life ever originated there.

"I'm thrilled John Grotzinger has been selected as the new GPS chair—he's a uniquely broad-based scientist who's brought his keen geological insight to bear on solving problems in fields that span nearly the entire breadth of GPS, from geobiology to planetary science, geophysics and geochemistry," says Michael Gurnis, John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics and director of the Seismological Laboratory, who was the chair of the search committee. "Combined with his enormous experience leading MSL, I can see that John will be a superb chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences.

As chair, Grotzinger says he wants to help the faculty and students in GPS to achieve their goals in research and education. "I look forward to supporting the unique excellence that distinguishes our division from its peers at other universities, and I will especially enjoy interacting with the students—and the outstanding young faculty members we've hired over the past few years," Grotzinger says.

"GPS excels at crossing traditional barriers, and I am curious to see how we might continue to catalyze new research opportunities," he adds. "So in addition to maintaining the existing excellence of our programs, I also want to find ways to develop the future by fostering creative interactions and finding new mechanisms to support this emerging research."

Written by Jessica Stoller-Conrad