The University Record, October 1, 2001

Jeffrey Alt—Research Scientist Achievement Award

Alt (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)
Geochemist and oceanographer Jeffrey Alt is internationally renowned for his impressive research on the evolution of the ocean crust—the rock material that covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface. Perhaps best known for his classic studies of sulfur, oxygen and carbon isotopes as they occur in hydrothermal deposits beneath the seafloor, Dr. Alt has enlarged our understanding of the formation of the many metal deposits upon which society depends.

His discoveries regarding the interaction between seawater and ocean crust have ramifications for such important research topics as the organic carbon budget, cycling of elements through the ocean, the study of ecosystems that may be found on other planets and the origin of life on Earth.

Dr. Alt, who joined the U-M faculty in 1989, has fundamentally changed the direction of “big science” expeditions involving the ocean depths. He is a seasoned “hand” at sea, having sailed on eight two-month cruises of the Deep-Sea Ocean Drilling Program and served as co-chief scientist on one. He also has studied ancient hydrothermal systems on the island of Cyprus and recently used remotely-operated vehicles to sample hot water vents and volcanic rock beneath Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming.

In addition to creating and sustaining his own extremely productive independent research program, Dr. Alt serves the wider scientific community as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation. His frequently cited papers are published in the top earth science journals, as well as Nature, Geology, Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Dr. Alt, research scientist in the Department of Geological Sciences, is a role model for students who aspire to pure research. He has initiated and led numerous successful seminars and special courses in the geological sciences, both in Ann Arbor and at the University’s summer field station in Wyoming. In 1999, he was recognized with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ Excellence in Research Award.

For his scholarly contributions to the geology of ocean basins, one of the most interesting and unexplored environments on Earth; his strong commitment to field expeditions on land and sea; and his international leadership in the geological sciences, the University of Michigan bestows upon Jeffrey Alt its Research Scientist Achievement Award.