Letter from the Head of Department - Fall 2014

Rob van der Hilst
Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The new academic year is well underway and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences is again abuzz with activity—with a fresh intake of students, research and course offerings of an extraordinary variety, and lively seminars and special lectures almost daily.

Our students are truly the engines of EAPS research. This fall we welcomed 21 new graduate students from seven countries, and we are delighted to report that two EAPS Visiting Committee members have committed to support our graduate students again this year: George J.  Elbaum ’59, SM ’63, PhD ’67 continues his support of two Whiteman Fellowships, and Neil Rasmussen ’76, SM ’80 has established the endowed Norman C. Rasmussen Fellowship Fund, annually supporting two graduate fellows in climate science, in perpetuity. And, earlier this year, Arthur C. H. Cheng SCD ’78 launched the Sven Treitel ’53 Graduate Student Support Fund and is rallying support from his peers to honor the renowned geophysics alumnus. Other exciting news about fellowships will be announced soon.

To acknowledge all of our leading fellowship donors, in the spring we will launch the EAPS Patrons’ Circle, honoring their contributions and providing a celebratory opportunity for them to meet “their” students. With help from our friends, my goal is to continue to build fellowship resources until we can support all EAPS graduate students throughout the two years before their qualifying exam. Having assured “no-strings-attached” funding, regardless of the restrictions of grant funding, enables EAPS to continue to attract the best and brightest students, and allows them the freedom to explore their strengths.

I thank you all for supporting the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and hope that our paths cross during the coming year!

Sincerely yours,

Rob van der Hilst
EAPS Department Head and Schlumberger Professor of Earth Sciences


Rob van der Hilst received his PhD in Geophysics from Utrecht University in 1990. After postdoctoral research at the University of Leeds (1990-1992) and the Australian National University (1992-1995) he joined the faculty of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) in 1996. Since 2004 he has been the Director of the Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL). In addition to his work at MIT, Rob has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands) and the Institut de Physique de Globe de Paris (France).

Rob’s research interests include: Seismic imaging of the Earth’s interior structure from reservoir to planetary scales (travel time and waveform tomography; inverse scattering); Geodynamics of convergent plate boundaries and the mode of mantle convection; Heterogeneity and anisotropy of Earth’s crust and upper mantle; Continental evolution.