HOUSTON – (February 12, 2021) – Rice University’s Mark Torres has won the Geochemical Society’s highest honor for early career scientists, the FW Clarke Award, becoming the fourth Rice faculty member to win this awards since 2009.
Torres, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, joined Rice in 2017. He will receive the 2021 Clarke Prize at the company’s annual meeting in July in recognition of “his work on Earth’s surface geochemistry focused on interactions between the hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and crust. “
Torres said the impact of the honor was felt by looking at the list of previous awardees and recognizing the names of “articles that I read as a student that really impressed me and that have guided or shaped my thinking. To be on that same list is amazing. . And then, in the same way, to also have this legacy of so many other Rice professors in my winning department. It’s fun to join the club. “
The Clarke Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to geochemistry or cosmochemistry and is awarded to one person each year. Torres joins Rice Clarke Award winners, Cin-Ty Lee (2009), Rajdeep Dasgupta (2011) and Laurence Yeung (2016).
Torres’s lab focuses on the interactions between rock and water near the Earth’s surface, the transport and burying of organic carbon, and how the oxidation of sulphide minerals affects atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
“On the Earth’s surface, materials like water and sediment tend to move and react chemically at the same time,” Torres said. “If you think of rivers, for example, there is chemistry that occurs when the river flows. Groundwater flows into rivers, and there is chemistry that occurs during this process as well.
“It turns out the speed at which something moves dictates how much chemistry you can do,” he said. “Things happen at a certain rate, and how quickly something goes from point A to point B determines how well it can react. At the same time, chemistry changes the speed at which it moves. sediment getting smaller? Do they get bigger? Do we dissolve things? Or do we precipitate new things? So transport and reaction end up feeding one on the other, which leads to complex patterns. And so a lot of my research is sort of thinking about these kinds of issues. “
Torres grew up in Southern California and was fascinated by dinosaurs as a child. His interest in paleontology and geology continued in high school, when he spent summers hunting fossils and afternoons cleaning dinosaur bones at the Alf Museum of Paleontology on his high school campus. But he also had a growing interest in environmental issues, particularly climate change, and he enrolled as a major in environmental studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.
“For some reason, I thought that despite all my interest in Earth Sciences, I would,” he said. “I had about a semester and I was like, ‘Oh, wait. No. Obviously I want to be a geologist. ‘ And so, it was like a very quick change. “
Torres cited his parents and museum director Alf Don Lofgren as important early influences and his Ph.D. adviser at the University of Southern California Josh West as a late critical influence. But Torres’ passion for geochemistry emerged in the labs of undergraduate mentors Robert Gaines and Jade Star Lackey, both of Pomona College. Torres said Gaines’ research into the geochemistry of Burgess Shale fossils was particularly crucial.
“It’s a unique type of fossil deposit, and it studies it from a geochemical perspective,” Torres said. “For example, what about this place right now – sea water – allowed us to have access to these fossils?
“And that little twist on paleontology has caught on,” he said. “In my mind, it was like, ‘Oh. The tools to answer a lot of questions that interest me – like, what was Earth like in the past? How will it change in the future? What Defines Earth’s Climate? – are in a way rooted in chemistry. These questions are fundamentally related to paleontology, which I thought was originally my passion. But being around (Gaines and Lackey), at that point, really showed me, “Oh, no, no. Geochemistry, that’s it.” “
High resolution IMAGES can be downloaded from:
LEGEND: Rice University geochemist Mark Torres (second from right) on the Icelandic river Efri Haukadalsá in 2019 with graduate students of Rice Yi Hou (right) and Trevor Cole ’20 (left) and l ‘California Institute of Technology graduate student Preston Kemeny (second from left).
(Photo by Trevor Cole)
LEGEND: Mark Torres with water samples taken from the Icelandic river Efri Haukadalsá in 2016.
(Photo by Woodward Fisher)
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