Rodney C. Ewing

Rodney C. Ewing
Stanford University

2015 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell

Presented to Rodney C. Ewing

Citation by Gordon E. Brown, Jr. and Scott W. Tinker

It is with great pleasure that we introduce our friend and colleague Professor Rodney C. Ewing, the 2015 Ian Campbell Medalist of the American Geosciences Institute. The Ian Campbell Medal is given in recognition of singular performance in and superlative service to the geosciences. Rod is extremely deserving.

Rod holds the Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security at Stanford University, where he is also Professor of Geological Sciences. Prior to his arrival at Stanford in January 2014, Rod was a Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, and of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for 17 years. Before that, he was aRegents’ Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Rod is an internationally recognized authority on scientific methods of nuclear waste disposal and metamict (radiation-damaged) minerals and ceramics. Because of his expertise in these areas, he was appointed by President Obama as Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board in 2012 and continues to serve the nation in that capacity.

Rod Ewing’s area of scholarly activity sits at the boundary between the chemistry and physics of Earth materials and materials science. He has authored or coauthored over 650 research publications and has served as editor or coeditor of 18 monographs, proceedings volumes, or special issues of journals. During his academic career to date, he has essentially defined a new research field involving radiation-induced damage in solids from the radioactive elements present in their crystal structures. This body of work has had a significant impact on the design of nuclear waste forms for containing high-level radioactive waste.

Metamict minerals were scientific curiosities when Rod began working on them as an M.S. and Ph.D. student at Stanford University in 1970–1974. However, thanks largely to Rod’s efforts, they have since become the focus of a major area of scientific investigation, particularly within the materials science community, because of the importance of ceramic materials and borosilicate glasses in the long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste. His studies of radiation-induced damage in zircons also have important implications for the use of this mineral in geochronology. Among Rod’s many scientific contributions meriting special mention are his field-based studies showing that natural nuclear reactors, such as those in Gabon, and uranium deposits, such as those in Zaire, serve as very useful analogs of the corrosion that spent nuclear fuel undergoes in man-made repositories. This knowledge is of great help in predicting the dissolution behavior and mobility of actinides in such repository environments. Over the past decade, Rod Ewing has also developed a major interest in science policy associated with high-level nuclear waste disposal and is widely recognized as one of our country's leading experts on this topic—a direct outgrowth of his long-term research focus on the nuclear fuel cycle.

Rod’s high level of success and scientific productivity and the national and international respect he has earned within different fields have resulted in many honors, including the 2006 Dana Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America, the 2006 Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the 1997 and 2002 Hawley Medal of the Mineralogical Association of Canada. His most recent major awards are the 2015 Roebling Medal, which is the highest award from the Mineralogical Society of America for lifetime achievement in the mineral sciences, and the International Mineralogical Association 2015 Medal for Excellence in Mineralogical Research, also given for lifetime achievement.

Rod’s national and international recognition for his outstanding scholarly contributions in the geosciences and materials science includes an honorary doctorate from the University of Paris VI (Universite Pierre et Marie Curie) in 2007 and being elected Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America (1983), the Geological Society of America (1985), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004), the American Geophysical Union (2007), the Materials Research Society (2008), and the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry (2009). In addition, he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 2013 and Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2009.

Rod has held leadership positions in a number of professional societies representing mineralogy, geochemistry, and materials science, including serving as Councilor and Secretary of the Materials Research Society (1982–1989), President of the International Union of Materials Research Societies (1997–1998), President of the Mineralogical Society of America (2002), and Member of the Board of Directors of the Geochemical Society (2012–present). His record of service to the mineral sciences and geochemistry is perhaps best illustrated by his creation of Elements, a magazine that now serves 17 mineralogical and geochemical societies worldwide.

Along with his strong background in actinide science, nuclear engineering, Earth sciences, and materials science—and his ability to reduce highly complex issues to relatively simple but technically sound descriptions—Rod Ewing’s deep knowledge of the scientific basis for nuclear waste disposal and radiation-induced damage in minerals and crystalline ceramics have made him highly effective at influencing scientific policies underlying nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal. As a result of his expertise and experience, he has been asked to serve on many national and international advisory committees and policy boards that focus on nuclear energy and the environment. In addition to currently serving as Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which we already mentioned, the most significant of these assignments have been memberships on the Board of Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council (2001–2005), the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board of the National Research Council (2005–2006).

Rod’s success as a teacher and mentor in the Earth sciences is also outstanding, as demonstrated by the two “Best Professor” awards he received from students at the University of Michigan in 2010 and 2012.

In summary, Rod Ewing is a modern mineral scientist at the top of his field who has excelled in both science and service. Dr. Ewing has made seminal contributions to our knowledge of radiation damage in minerals and the design of waste forms for high-level nuclear waste. And he continues to have a major impact on the policies underlying nuclear waste management in the United States. We are very pleased to present Rod Ewing as the 2015 Ian Campbell Medalist of the American Geosciences Institute.

top2015 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell — Response by Rodney C. Ewing

My thanks to my citationists, Scott Tinker from the University of Texas and Gordon Brown from Stanford University, for their kind words. I also thank the American Geoscience Institute for this unexpected honor. I never met Ian Campbell, even though he was a major force in geological sciences in California while I was a graduate student at Stanford. However, through Dick Jahns’ expansive memorial to Ian Campbell, I know that Campbell had a life-long interest in minerals – mainly non-metallic minerals as an industrial resource, and he was for a short time California’s State Mineralogist. After retirement he was a co-author of the beautifully illustrated Minerals – Nature’s Fabulous Jewels. In this small world of professional connections, he was also the citationist for Professor Adolf Pabst on the occasion of his award of the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America in 1965. Professor Pabst nurtured my research interest in metamict minerals.

I am particularly honored by this recognition because previous recipients – Richard Jahns, Konrad Krauskopf and Gordon Brown -- have played an important role in my career, and all have a Stanford connection stretching back to my days as a graduate student.

Dick Jahns, in fact the first recipient of the Ian Campbell Medal in 1981, introduced me to pegmatites and played a major role in my appointment as an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. Most importantly, he arranged, with considerable effort, for my “early-out” from the Army while I was in Vietnam – certainly life-saving. Dick guided my return to Stanford – a welcome haven in a time of turmoil.

Konnie Krauskopf, the third recipient of the Ian Campbell Medal in 1984, taught me geochemistry. After I arrived at the University of New Mexico, Konnie arranged that I be appointed to a committee of the National Research Council that reviewed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. I served on this committee for twelve years, and this was my introduction of nuclear waste issues. I would go on to serve on eleven NRC committees dealing with issues of nuclear waste and nuclear weapons. This committee service was good preparation for my present position as chair of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

Gordon Brown, the 31st recipient of the Ian Campbell Medal in 2012, was a member of my Ph.D. committee at Stanford, and a career mentor for 40 years. I am pleased to say that his office is next to mine at Stanford. He led the nomination for this award.

I also want to acknowledge the three academic institutions that have supported my science and service efforts – University of New Mexico, University of Michigan and Stanford University. After graduate school at Stanford, I began my academic career at the University of New Mexico. There is no better place to learn and teach geology than the Land of Enchantment. Dick Jahns introduced me to the Harding pegmatite, which is now preserved for public education and research. The proximity of two national laboratories – Sandia and Los Alamos – stimulated my research on radiation effects in ceramics and minerals, and this provided more insight into nuclear waste issues. When I moved to the University of Michigan, I became a professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences. Patient colleagues, particularly Ron Fleming, educated me in nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry and nuclear power. Eventually, I would become a professor in three departments, adding Earth & Environmental Sciences and Materials Science & Engineering. The cross-fertilization of ideas and graduate students across these three departments contributed greatly to our research success. During the last years at Michigan, my home department was Earth & Environmental Sciences, but the research group consisted mainly of nuclear engineers, materials scientists and just a few geologists. My geology colleagues were always welcoming of this diverse group of students. Most recently, I returned to Stanford as a Senior Fellow in the Center for International Security & Cooperation and as a professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. In CISAC, I am once again in a completely new environment – struggling to absorb new ideas and make a contribution. I have come full circle with my return to Stanford – and could not be happier.

At all of these universities, the research was driven by bright and energetic undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. My role was to create an environment where they could prosper, and my benefit was to discover that so many doors could be opened by their research.

At all three universities, my research was sustained by Basic Energy Sciences in the Office of Science of the Department of Energy. Most recently, I have been a member of the Energy Frontier Research Center on the Materials Science of Actinides, also supported by the Office of Science. Other sources of funding have come and gone, but the steady, often modest, funding from the Office of Science has been key to my being able to explore new directions in my research. It is with great gratitude that I acknowledge the research support from the Department of Energy.

Concerning my service to the geoscience profession, this has mainly been through good fortune, as well as unusual and much enjoyed collaborations. I was fortunate to be the chair of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of New Mexico when Caswell Silver and his family created the Caswell Silver Foundation in support of the Department. The birth of the magazine Elements was through the collective efforts of Pierrette Tremblay, Ian Parsons and Mike Hochella. The preservation of the Harding Pegmatite in New Mexico was through the generosity of Art Montgomery, the hard work of Bryan Chakoumakos, and the on-site vigilance of three generations of the Griego family in Dixon, NM. The preservation of the University of Michigan Mineral Collection was through the hard work of Chris Stephano and the vision of Ted Bornhorst at A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech.

I presume that the Ian Campbell Medal is in recognition of my efforts to establish a solid scientific basis for the management and disposal of nuclear waste. This has not been a focus of my science, but it has become an all-consuming “hobby.” Sadly, after more than 30 years of effort on the science and service on a wide variety of committees, I can’t say that there has been much progress. Nuclear waste remains a huge ecological and financial burden for the United States. As long as this issue remains unresolved, the role of nuclear power in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will remain severely compromised. While I am highly honored to receive the Ian Campbell Medal, I am disappointed that I have not been able to accomplish more in addressing this important environmental issue.