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Division of Research and Graduate Studies

Dr. Keith Putirka Wins Claude C. Laval Jr. Award

Dr. Keith Putirka Wins Claude C. Laval Jr. Award FRESNO, Calif. (Jan. 15, 2003) -- Dr. Keith Putirka, assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Claude Laval, Jr. Award for Innovative Technology and Research for his proposal, "Some New Instrumental Techniques Applied to Hawaiian Volcanism."

As part of his study, Dr. Putirka will have access to the one-of-a-kind equipment of the California Institute of Technology for carrying out the innovative and specialized research.

Dr. Putirka’s Ph.D. is from Columbia University (1997) in Geological Sciences. At Columbia he used partial melting experiments to calibrate thermometers and barometers related to the crystallization and partial melting of volcanic rocks, using mineral compositions.

These tools can be used to map the shape and depth extent of volcanic plumbing systems, which is important for understanding volcanic conduit evolution, and has implications regarding volcanic hazards. Before arriving at Columbia, Dr. Putirka received his B.S. in Geology from Cal State Northridge (1986) and his M.S. (Geology) from Cal State LA (1992).

Dr. Putirka’s current work involves volcanism at Mauna Kea, Hawaii and the Snake River Plain, Idaho. The work in Hawaii involves an international team of scientists whose focus is centered on the analysis of drill core samples from the flank of Mauna Kea volcano. Such samples are crucial to our understanding of Hawaiian volcanism since samples collected at the volcano’s surface sample only the most recent outpourings of lava.

The drill core will thus give us a unique time-integrated view of Mauna Kea history. Dr. Putirka’s role is to examine mineral compositions from these lava flows to determine the depths at which magma chambers form. The study of Mauna Kea is being complemented by an examination of recent volcanic activity in the Snake River Plain (SRP), near Yellowstone National Park. The study of Snake River Plain lavas will allow us to determine how the presence of continental crust affects the upward mobility of magma, as compared to Mauna Kea, where continental material is absent. Administered through the University Grants and Research Office, the Laval award was established in 1984 in honor of Mr. Claude C. Laval Jr., a long-time resident of Fresno and a productive inventor. The award has supported the development of innovative technology and related research at Fresno State. Funding is provided by a gift to the university from Mr. and Mrs. Claude C. Laval III.

For more information, contact Douglas Carey in the Grants and Research office, 278-0856.