SF State News {University Communications}

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News Release


SF State faculty research garners prestigious federal support

National Science Foundation CAREER award recognizes assistant professor's cutting-edge geological research on the formation of the Himalayas


SAN FRANCISCO, January 16, 2009 -- San Francisco State University Assistant Professor of Geosciences Mary Leech has received a prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. The award of $507,264 will support Leech's continuing lab and field research on formation of the Himalayas in India and Tibet. Leech's earlier study of rocks from the collision zone between India and Asia showed that the two, which were once separate continents, collided 7 million years earlier than previously believed.

"This funding will contribute to a greater understanding of the large scale hypotheses regarding mountain formation," Leech said. "One of the areas we will explore might tell us if the erosion that occurs at the top of the Himalayas due to monsoonal rains has a role in the continual building of these mountains."

An educational component of the grant will develop a new geology curriculum for third through sixth grades in the San Francisco Unified School District. SF State undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the lab, the public school classrooms and field research in the Himalayas.

"This is terrific recognition of the caliber of Dr. Leech's challenging research and excellence in teaching," said Dean of the College of Science and Engineering Sheldon Axler. "It also speaks well of the kinds of opportunities we can give our students here at San Francisco State University and of the quality of our faculty."  

The Faculty Early Career Development Grant program confers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for faculty at the beginning of their careers. It recognizes those who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

Leech's CAREER grant, the ninth awarded to SF State science and mathematics faculty, places SF State among elite private institutions, which are typical recipients of this National Science Foundation funding.

Leech is the recipient of several national honors for excellence in science including a National Science Foundation research fellowship. Prior to earning a doctorate in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University in 1999, she was awarded a National Science Foundation Minority Graduate Fellowship. Leech, whose maternal heritage extends to the Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma, is a San Francisco Bay Area native and resident of Woodside.

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A color photo of Mary Leech is available upon request.

The Department of Geosciences in the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University offers undergraduate degree programs in the fields of geology, earth science, meteorology and oceanography as well as a master's degree in geosciences. The department is home to several unique collaborations with national and community entities including SF Rocks (Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science), designed to encourage San Francisco public school students to pursue geoscience studies and careers.





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