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Jessica Larsen, UAF professor of volcanology, was appointed as the associate director of the GI in July.
Jessica Larsen, UAF professor of volcanology, was appointed as the associate director of the GI in July.

Jessica Larsen named GI associate director

The Geophysical Institute appointed Jessica Larsen as the new associate director this July. 

Larsen, a professor of volcanology, joined the GI when she came to Alaska as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in 1997 to work with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. She has a joint appointment with the GI and the Department of Geosciences.

“I am excited to help support GI faculty and graduate students in their own career pathways,” Larsen said. “This position is allowing me to identify a few core issues that are impacting faculty and students, and with Bob’s support, to work towards solutions.”

“I look forward to learning more about all of the other research activities going on here, and applying what I learn to help the GI continue to grow in research excellence.”

For Larsen, the GI’s strength is its interdisciplinary work and she wants to build on that.

“In the volcanology research area alone, I have collaborated and worked with seismologists, geodesy experts, and remote sensing and planetary sciences faculty and students,” she said. “I can't think of another institute or college anywhere else that has the breadth and depth of research activities that we have at the GI.”

Her first priority as the associate director is to gain a larger perspective about the issues and concerns facing the research groups.

“I know many of the research faculty members at the GI because I've been here for more than two decades now,” she said. “I feel comfortable talking with the research group leaders and department chairs about their concerns, and asking all for ideas and solutions to a few key problems I see during these challenging budget times.”

Over the long term she hopes to improve and stabilize graduate course offerings, involve interested research faculty in teaching activities, increase the participation of local high school students in research projects and address diversity concerns at the GI.

Larsen is a founding member of the GI diversity, equity and inclusion committee, established this year. For Larsen, tackling these social issues in the sciences and GI is a priority, one that comes with perspective. 

When she started her faculty career in 1999, she was the only female faculty member in seismology or volcanology. Now, she says the GI is a much more diverse place but there is still room for change. 

“When I look at the faculty and researcher profiles on the website, I can see how the GI is more diverse now in comparison with when I arrived in the late 1990's,” she said. “I’d like to see us build on that progress. I’d like to help facilitate lasting improvements to our diversity, especially because there is now a swell of momentum in society.”


CONTACTS:

Fritz Freudenberger, University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, 907-474-7185, ffreudenberger@alaska.edu