Moynier awarded young scientist honors

Houtermans Award, Nier Prize go to WUSTL assistant professor

Frédéric Moynier, PhD, 33, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences and a member of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named the recipient of the 2012 Houtermans Award and the Nier Prize, both given for exceptional work by a scientist younger than 35.

“We are excited to have Frédéric recognized for his outstanding work in cosmochemistry and geochemistry,” says Doug Wien, PhD, professor and chair of earth and planetary sciences. “He is an exceptionally talented and hard-working young scientist, and we are fortunate to have him in our department.

“He is always eager to talk about some new scientific development, and working with him is a delight,” Wiens says. “He has accomplished at lot in just a few short years here, so I expect he has many important discoveries ahead of him.”

“Moynier is one of the most brilliant young professors associated with the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences,” says Ramanath Cowsik, PhD, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences and director of the McDonnell Center.

“He uses primitive meteorites as proxy for the materials out of which the Earth and other planets condensed at the time of their formation a little over 5 billion years ago. His research constitutes an important advance in our understanding of the conditions that prevailed at the time of the formation of the Earth. The center takes great pride in his achievements,” Cowsik says.

The Houtermans Award

The Houtermans Award is given annually by the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) for exceptional contributions to the field of geochemistry.

In the award citation, the association said Moynier seeks to advance “understanding the chronology of the early solar system, the early differentiation of the Earth, the origin of the volatile elements in terrestrial planets, non mass-dependent isotopic fractionation mechanisms and the nucleosynthesis and the stellar environments at the birth of our solar system.”

‘To reach these goals, Moynier uses isotopic geochemistry tools such as short-lived radioactive nuclides and heavy stable isotopes,” the citation says.

The EAG is a pan-European organization founded to promote geochemical research. The EAG organizes conferences, meetings and educational courses for geochemists in Europe, including the Goldschmidt Conference, which it co-sponsors with the North American Geochemical Society.

Moynier, who was raised in Provence, France, earned a bachelor’s degree in geology in 2002 and a doctoral degree in 2006 from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon.

The award is named in honor of Friedrich George Houtermans, a Dutch-Austrian-German physicist who made important contributions to geochemistry and cosmochemistry even though, as a Communist in the 1930s, he ran afoul of international politics.

The award will be bestowed on Moynier at the 22nd Goldschmidt Conference in Montreal in June.

The Nier Prize

The Nier Prize is given annually by the Meteoritical Society for outstanding research in meteoritics and closely allied fields.

Moynier was recognized “for significant contributions to understanding the processes that produced isotopic fractionations in the transition metals in solar system materials.”

The Meteoritical Society is a nonprofit scholarly organization founded in 1933 to promote the study of extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites and space-mission-returned samples, and their history.

The award was established in 1995 to honor the memory of Alfred O. C. Nier, an American physicist who pioneered the development of mass spectroscopy. It is supported by a grant given by Nier’s wife, Ardis.

Moynier will receive the Nier Prize at the annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Cairns, Australia, in August.