2022 Penrose Medal

Presented to An Yin

An Yin

An Yin
College of Physical Sciences and Department of Earth, Planetary & Space Sciences, University of California


Citation by Mark Harrison

Professor An Yin has made profound contributions to understanding how planetary lithospheres form and deform by relating his tectonic and geophysical observations with rigorous mechanical models. His tectonic reconstruction of the Indo-Asian collision has been the starting point of geological research there for over 25 years and the vast range of studies he conducted there establish him as arguably the greatest authority on this key region. He used diffusion-induced pressure-wave theory to relate for the first-time slow earthquakes to tectonic tremor propagation and, over the past decade, investigated extra-terrestrial tectonic processes leading to provocative proposals that Mars experienced localized plate tectonics and a new kinematic model for the formation of tiger-stripe fractures on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. I am honored to introduce Professor An Yin as the 2022 recipient of the Penrose Medal for his outstanding original scientific contributions which collectively represent a major advance in the science of geology.


Response by An Yin

Thank you Mark for the generous citation and GSA for this incredible honor. I am overwhelmed by receiving the unexpected Penrose Medal, which I thought was bestowed only on the best minds in our discipline, for which I do not feel qualified. However, I understand the award is to recognize not only my work but the collective achievement of my mentors, collaborators, and students.

I am grateful to the training I received at Peking University, where my interests in mechanics, structural geology, and tectonics were encouraged by Profs. Wang Ren, Qian Xianglin, and Zheng Yadong.

At USC, my PhD advisor Greg Davis, whose work revolutionized our understanding of Cordilleran and extensional tectonics, taught me how field mapping produces the most stringent time-space constraints on any geological hypothesis. Greg’s insights into mountain-building processes laid the foundation for my career.

Listing all the names of my collaborators is impossible, but I must thank a few key persons: Mark Harrison, Shangyou Nie, Craig Manning, Rick Ryerson, Brad Hacker, George Gehrels, Marty Grove, and Ding Lin. Among all, Mark Harrison impacted me the most through his ingenious research and his mentorship.

I would like to thank all my former and current students: it was your dedication, loyalty, and hard work that contributed to this amazing honor.

I specifically wish to thank my wife Sandy who raised our two beautiful children, Daniel and Hanah, with a partner who was often on the other side of the planet or distracted by a thorny scientific problem.

I was born during the Great Leap Forward and a teenager during the 10-year Cultural Revolution in China when universities were closed, professors like my parents were sent to the countryside, and my schooling was single-voice indoctrination. This experience makes me appreciate enlightened institutions like GSA that promote vigorous debate and celebrate diversity. Moving laterally into other disciplines made me realize that an openness to new ideas, exemplified by GSA, is not universal. This made me more proud to have been a member of this wonderful organization in the past four decades, and I thank GSA again for this amazing award.