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EAR Announces Staff Update, Summer 2022

June 24, 2022

EAR Management Staffing Updates

Dr. Jessica Robin will serve as the Acting EAR Division Director while NSF undergoes a nationwide recruitment for the next EAR Division Director. Jessica has been at NSF since 2007 and the EAR Section Head for Integrated Activities since April 2020. 

Dr. Margaret Benoit will serve as the Acting Integrated Activities Section Head to fill Jessica's position while she is Acting Division Director. Dr. Benoit has been a Program Director as a permanent Federal employee since 2016 in EAR, with prior service as an IPA from 2013-2015. Most recently, she served as Program Director for the SAGE and GAGE major facilities (2018-present) and led the creation of the new Centers for Innovation and Community Engagement in Geohazards program. Maggie also served as the GEO representative for the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 program and oversaw the Southern California Earthquake Center award. Prior to this position, she served as Program Director for the EarthScope Science Program (2013-2015, 2016-2018). Before to coming to NSF, Maggie was an Associate Professor of Physics at The College of New Jersey (2007-2016) and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at MIT (2005-2007). She obtained her BS in Physics from The College of New Jersey and Ph.D. from Penn State University.

Dr. Stephen Mackwell has joined EAR as the Section Head for the Disciplinary Programs. Dr. Mackwell has a broad scientific background with extensive experience in Earth and Planetary Sciences. Before joining NSF, he served as Deputy Executive Officer at the American Institute of Physics and the Corporate Director of Science Programs at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). He also served as the USRA’s Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. He has had academic appointments at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany and Pennsylvania State University. While at Penn State, he served as an IPA in EAR at NSF. Steve is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Mineralogical Society of America. In 2016, Asteroid 5292 Mackwell (1991 AJ1) was named in honor of his contributions to planetary science.

EAR would like to thank Robin Reichlin for her exceptional service as Acting Disciplinary Programs Section Head from August 2021 to April 2022. Robin is now serving as an Advisor on the EAR management team.

 New EAR Staff

Brenda Macias has joined EAR as an NSF Summer Scholar from the HACU National Internship Program. Brenda is pursuing a Master of Science in Mathematics with a concentration in Data Science at Tufts University. In 2020, she earned her BA in Mathematics and Education from Bowdoin College. Most recently, she was an AmeriCorps Math Fellow in Saga Education. As an AmeriCorps Fellow Brenda tutored ten students from Young Connection Charter Schools, a school network that targets dropouts and other at-risk students. Brenda has been distinguished as a Gates Millennium Scholar, QuestBridge Scholar, IRT Associate, and she is a SACNAS Member. After graduating, Brenda plans to continue working within the public sector in education-related data analysis. She is interested in roles that involve analyzing data to help inform policy and improve the lives of those most marginalized. Her breadth of skills from her background in mathematics, teaching, mentoring, and conducting education-related research will greatly benefit EAR. She will be completing a data analysis project under the mentorship of Dena Smith-Nufio, Raleigh Martin, and Diana Hernandez-Garcia.

Dr. Candace Major will be joining EAR as the Frontier Research in Earth Sciences (FRES) Program Director starting on August 15. She joined NSF in 2008 and has served in several roles in GEO, including Program Director in both the Marine Geology and Geophysics and Paleoclimate programs, Section Head of Marine Geosciences, and Director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. She has also served on a number of cross-disciplinary programs, agency business working groups, and interagency working groups. Prior to joining NSF, she was a Comer Postdoctoral Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and an NSF International Research Fellow at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et l’Environnement (LSCE/CNRS) in France. Dr. Major’s research focused on paleoclimate and marine sediments. She received her PhD in Geological Sciences from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University.

Catherine Prunella has joined EAR as a Science Assistant on detail from EHR-DUE. At EHR Catherine supports the Advanced Technological Education, Scholarships in STEM, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions programs. At EAR Catherine will be working with the Instrumentation and Facilities team on the Synchrotron-based analytical capabilities competition and SAGE and GAGE. Before joining NSF Catherine earned her MS in Marine Science from the University of South Florida (USF). At USF Catherine worked with International Ocean Discovery Program sediment cores from the Ross Sea to generate geochemical records of past ocean and Antarctic ice sheet conditions. Catherine earned her BA in Environmental Studies from the City University of New York-Hunter College. As an undergraduate Catherine participated in Hunter’s Public Service Scholar Program and a REU in Marine Science at the University of Delaware. 

Dr. Douglas Kowalewski has joined EAR as a Program Director in the  Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology (SGP) and Paleo Perspectives on Climate Change (P2C2). Dr. Kowalewski comes to us from the Office of Polar Programs where he has been the Antarctic Sciences (ANT) Section Head. Additionally, Doug managed the Antarctic Earth Sciences Program from 2017-2019 as an IPA Program Director, and during that time he was the ANT representative to P2C2. Prior to NSF, he was an Associate Professor at Worcester State University where he was instrumental in building STEM recruitment and retention programs for the diverse study body enrolled there.

Dr. Luciana Astiz has been selected as the Program Director of the Centers for Innovation and Community Engagement in Solid Earth Geohazards program.  Luciana joined NSF in 2015 and has served in several roles in GEO, including Program Director in the EAR Geophysics, REU, Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Instrumentation and Facilities programs. She also represents NSF on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) inter-agency working group and GEO on the NSF Proposal Management Efficiencies working group. Prior to joining NSF, Dr. Astiz was Associate Director of the EarthScope’s USArray Array Network Facility at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and worked as a Seismic Officer for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna, Austria.  She also held two postdoctoral fellowships at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and at the University of Washington. Dr. Astiz received her Ph.D. in Geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and her undergraduate degree in Geophysical Engineering from UNAM in Mexico City.

Dr. Yurena Yanes has joined EAR as an IPA Program Director in SGP. Dr. Yanes is an Associate Professor from the University of Cincinnati. She holds a BS degree in Biology and a Ph.D. in Paleobiology from the Universidad de La Laguna Canary Islands, Spain. Her research seeks to better understand how humans, biological communities, and the environment interact with each other. The group of organisms she uses to examine biotic-environmental-human linkages is Mollusca (primarily gastropods). She integrates data, techniques, and approaches from multiple scientific disciplines including ecology, taphonomy, paleoecology, isotope geochemistry, Quaternary geochronology, archeology, and the emerging field of conservation paleobiology. Yurena is native to the Canary Islands and seeks to serve as a role model for other women, immigrants, and minorities (particularly Hispanic women) in STEM fields. Dr. Yanes was the 2018-2020 Paleontology Society Distinguished Lecturer.

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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