Leigh Royden Receives 2019 Walter H. Bucher Medal

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Leigh Royden will be awarded the 2019 Walter H. Bucher Medal at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony in December. The medal is for "original contributions to the basic knowledge of crust and lithosphere."

Leigh (Wiki) Royden, Professor of Geology and Geophysics in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), works in the area of regional geology and geophysics, and the mechanics of large-scale continental deformation contributing to the study of geologic processes through quantitative geophysical modeling. She is well known for studies in thermal evolution and geodynamics, like flow in the lower crust and its relevance to the growth and structure of mountain ranges and high plateaus.

She made significant strides in the development of integrated basin analysis techniques and developed the initial methodology for reconstructing time-temperature histories of sedimentary rocks and predictions for hydrocarbon maturity. Her research has contributed critical understanding on thermal subsidence at the northeastern continental margin of North America and on retreating subduction boundaries formed during the collision of continental tectonic plates. More recently, Royden’s research has focused on subducting slab dynamics and continental mechanics, pulling together her work on extensional basins above subduction zones to fundamental concepts of continental deformation. She has consequently concentrated on the geometry, kinematics and dynamics of subducted slabs and the variations of the subduction process depending upon whether oceanic, continental or intermediate-type lithosphere is subducting. She has examined this in areas such as Tibet and the Mediterranean region.

Former MIT recipients of the AGU Walter H. Bucher Medal include the late EAPS professor of geology Samuel Bowring (2016) and the late EAPS professor emeritus William F. Brace ‘46, ‘49, PhD ’53 in 1987.

Others receiving awards this year included Eugenia Kalnay PhD ’71 and Alexandra Witze XII BS '92. Kalnay, who is now a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, College Park, will receive the Roger Revelle Medal. Witze is a science journalist contributing to Nature News, covering the Earth and planetary sciences beat. She will receive the Robert C. Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony on Wednesday, 11 December, at Fall Meeting 2019 in San Francisco, Calif.