Jun Korenaga Is Recognized for Breakthrough Research on Plate Tectonics
Microsoft External Research has named Jun Korenaga, Yale associate professor of geology and geophysics, as an A. Richard Newton Breakthrough Research Award winner for his research on how the movement of Earth’s surface plates contributes to the habitability of the planet.
“Understanding the physics of plate-tectonic convection in Earth’s mantle is one of the outstanding and most puzzling challenges in geosciences and planetary sciences,” says Korenaga. “The links among plate tectonics, the geomagnetic field, the existence of oceans, and the composition of the air have profound implications for the habitability of a planet and the evolution of life.”
Korenaga’s project “How to Build a Habitable Planet: Estimating the Physics of Plate-Tectonic Convection on Earth” uses computer simulation to study the balance between the physical forces that cause movement in the surface plates of the earth.
Because the work being done by other winners of the Microsoft awards is oriented more toward biological issues, says Korenaga, “Receiving this honor is particularly gratifying as recognition of this area of research.” He notes that his work exemplifies how this long-standing mystery can be approached by addressing the fundamental physics question and formulating it as a quantitative mathematical problem.
This award provides a total of $1 million in funding to encourage breakthrough academic research to help solve some of today’s most challenging societal problems. Microsoft created the award program in 2007 in honor of the late A. Richard Newton, former dean and professor of the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a longtime member of Microsoft Research’s Technical Advisory Board.
Korenaga, who joined the Yale faculty in 2003, is a self-described “freestyle” geophysicist, whose current research spans mantle and core dynamics, theoretical geochemistry and marine geophysics. In 2006, he was the recipient of the prestigious James B. Macelwane Medal presented by the American Geophysical Union, and in 2007, he was elected as a Kavli Frontiers Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences.