As a leader and mentor, Professor Toksöz has had a far-reaching influence on applied geophysics, and whose former students include a “who’s who” in the field, in both industry and academia.
Born in Turkey, a country straddling one of the world’s most active strike-slip faults, it is perhaps not surprising that Emeritus Professor Nafi Toksöz found himself drawn to the field of seismology.
After earning an undergraduate degree at the Colorado School of Mines in 1958, Toksöz moved to Caltech for his doctoral studies where his advisor was the renowned geophysicist Frank Press. In 1965, two years after graduating, Toksöz accepted a faculty position at MIT in what was then the Earth and Planetary Science Department, rejoining Press who had moved east a year earlier and where he was now closely involved in the construction of a lunar seismograph, first deployed by the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Toksöz recalls, “The US Apollo program was in full swing and a top scientific goal was to determine the internal structure of the moon, but for that we needed seismometers and seismic data. It was the hardest work I have ever done but definitely the most exciting.”
The oil crisis of the 1970s brought home to Toksöz the importance of growing global energy demand and the energy security of the United States. In response, and recognizing looming funding uncertainty in geophysics with the winding down of the Apollo program, Toksöz turned his attention towards securing Institute and industry backing for what would become, in 1982, the Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL). Today, ERL is a vibrant home for research and education on sub-surface energy resources and environmental issues under the directorship of Professor Brad Hager.
In the later years of his career, Toksöz has become known for his work developing models of wave propagation in heterogeneous media, and helping define the field of borehole acoustic logging, and advanced vertical seismic profile (VSP) and cross-well seismology. His lifetime scientific contributions were recognized with the Seismological Society of America’s Harry Fielding Reid Medal in 2006 and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ Maurice Ewing Medal in 2010.
Over the course of his 44 years as a member of the faculty, Toksöz has mentored hundreds of students as an academic advisor and (with his late wife Helena) as Housemaster at Baker House from 1969-1980. And, since his official retirement in 2009, he has continued to advise doctoral students and to publish a steady stream of papers. Aside from his demonstrated skill as a fundraiser, his founding of ERL, and his prowess as a world class seismologist, it could well be this nurturing role for which people remember him most warmly.
It was to honor this incredible multi-faceted legacy that EAPS established the M. Nafi Toksöz Fellowship Fund in 2011. Humbled by the volume of donations, Toksöz and his wife, Charlotte Johnson, also became supporters of the fund.
Graduate students play a vital role in EAPS by conducting advanced research, teaching and mentoring undergraduates, and helping to attract world-class faculty. A full fellowship provides a graduate student with funding for a nine-month period, including tuition, stipend, and health insurance. Fellowships allow us to train and nurture the best young scientists, regardless of whether their skills and interests match those of a pre-existing government or corporate grant—and they are an especially important recruitment tool.
This year’s M. Nafi Toksöz fellow, Manuel Flores-Torrez, follows in the footsteps of Shujuan Mao (2015-2016), Chen Gu (2014-2015), and inaugural fellow Lucas Willemsen (2013-2014). While the fund is already supporting students, our goal is to build the endowment fund to $1.8M so that it will generate the $78K a year needed (as of 2016-17) to provide a full nine months of support to a student.
We invite you to join us in celebrating the achievements of Professor Toksöz by continuing to support the M. Nafi Toksöz Fellowship Fund. Your gift in any amount is greatly appreciated.
Read more about Professor Toksöz: http://bit.ly/nafi-toksoz
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