Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Skip to content Skip to navigation

Commencement 2013: A new generation of Earth, energy and environmental scientists and engineers

Stanford's School of Earth Sciences awarded 104 degrees during the University's 122nd graduation day.

Nancy Peterson
June 17, 2013
Linda Cicero
The School of Earth Sciences awarded 104 degrees -- B.S., M.S. and Ph.D.

Healthy oceans. Food for a planet that will grow to 9 billion people. Safe drinking water. Fueling the world’s need for energy while sustaining Earth’s life support systems. Protecting people from natural hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Mitigating and adapting to climate change. Understanding Earth’s past, present and future, from the core to the atmosphere.

Those are just a few of the aspirations of the Stanford School of Earth Sciences class of 2013. On June 16, the School awarded Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees to 104 men and women representing a new generation of Earth scientists and engineers – the people whom Dean Pamela A. Matson said have a critical role to play in a rapidly changing world.

“We’re not only seeing a large increase in the human population, but also in how much that population consumes,” said Matson, Chester Naramore Dean of the Stanford School of Earth Sciences. “The gross domestic product is increasing in many areas of the world, and there’ll be another few billion people in the middle class over the next decades.

“No matter how you think about it, these changes add up to a dramatic increase in the need and demand for energy and materials, water and food, safe places to live, education, employment and health care,” Matson said. “As we strive to meet those needs, we will be putting tremendous pressure on our land and water systems and on our energy and mineral resources, on our climate system, and on the ecosystems, on land and in the ocean, that provide so much of what we need and future generations will need. The real challenge for the future is to do both: to meet needs and protect the life support systems of the planet. In many ways that’s what we’re about in the School of Earth Sciences.

“No matter which areas you have studied, you are uniquely positioned to help both today and in the future,” Matson said. “You are the most aware, informed, creative, technologically and computationally skilled students I can imagine. This will continue to be an exciting, fast-changing century, and the decisions and actions we take today will be felt by your children and grandchildren. Whether your next step is to launch your career or to continue your education, I hope you will think of the well-being of future generations as well as your own generation. We need you – the new generation of Earth, energy and environmental scientists and engineers – to tackle the challenging resource and sustainability issues of the 21st century.”

The graduates were celebrated by Earth Sciences faculty and staff, and most importantly by parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, partners, children and friends from as nearby as the San Francisco Bay Area and as far away as Nigeria and Fiji.

In addition to awarding degrees, special recognition was provided to faculty and students.

Bala Rajaratnam received the annual Earth Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award for “his genuine interest in his students, his extensive preparation and his commitment to provide Earth Sciences students with the quantitative skills necessary to become leaders in their fields.” An assistant professor in the Department of Statistics as well as in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Rajaratnam received rave reviews for the class “Advanced Statistical Methods for Earth System Analysis.” One student who nominated Rajaratnam called it “a stellar class.”

“I hope he teaches it again with different topics,” the student wrote. “I would love to re-enroll.”

Numerous students – both degree recipients and current graduate and undergraduates – were honored as well.

The School of Earth Sciences certificate for Outstanding Achievement and Mentoring was awarded to nine students who “contribute substantially to their research groups and school communities.”

They include Sjoerd de Ridder (Geophysics), Sean Foorman (Earth Systems), Robert Heilmayr Lucia Hennelly (Earth Systems), Justine Kimball (Environmental Earth System Science), Mairi Litherland (Geophysics), Lauren Oakes (Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources), Jason Stucky (Environmental Earth System Science), and Lida Teneva (Environmental Earth System Science).

Stanford presents University-wide Centennial Teaching Assistant awards annually to recognize outstanding teaching by students. The nine Earth Sciences recipients are Annika Alexander-Ozinskas (Earth Systems), Jessica Eastling (Earth Systems), Samuel Johnstone (Geological and Environmental Sciences), Dario Grana (Geophysics), Alexandra Hausladen (Earth Systems), Abdulrahman Manea (Energy Resources Engineering), Dan Reineman (Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources), Daniel Swain (Environmental Earth System Science) and Sameet Trehan (Energy Resources Engineering).

Additional awards, presented by departments and programs follow.

Earth Systems Program

  • Outstanding Research in Earth Systems: Laura Lilly and Patrick Freeman
  • Outstanding Service to the Earth Systems Program: Michael Delgado and Patrick Freeman 
  • William W. Whitley Citizen-Scholar Award: Noemi Walzebuck

Energy Resources Engineering

  • Frank G. Miller Fellowship Award for High Academic Achievement: Orhun Aydin, Chanya Thirawarapan, Peipei Li and Francois Hamon
  • Henry J. Ramey, Jr. Fellowship Award for Outstanding Research: Obi Isebor and Jincong He
  • William H. Brigham Memorial Award for Best Department Citizen: Amar Alshehri and Ronny Pini

Environmental Earth System Science

  • 2013 Graduate Student Award for Scholarly/Research Achievement: Christopher Skinner

Geological & Environmental Sciences

  • Outstanding Senior: Gabriela Farfan
  • Outstanding Graduate Student: Alexandros Konstantinou
  • Harriet Benson Award: Josie Nevitt (4th year PhD candidate)


  • Student Citizenship Award: Sjoerd de Ridder

The Geophysics department also recognized Daniel Trugman, who received three significant University-wide honors:
Stanford's Hoefer Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Writing, the Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research and the David M. Kennedy Prize for the single best honors thesis in the natural sciences at Stanford in 2012-13.

Nancy Peterson is Chief Communications Officer in the School of Earth Sciences