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Professor Fornash wins national grant for geochemistry research

Published: October 15, 2020 Author: Staff reports

Dr. Katherine Fornash is one of only 35 junior faculty recipients to receive a national highly competitive Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) research grant. 

The Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty. The award provides $10,000 in seed money, $5,000 from ORAU and $5,000 matched from the recipient’s institution, for the 2020-21 academic year. These funds can be used to purchase equipment, continue research projects, or support related travel. 

“I am proud of Dr. Katherine Fornash and congratulate her on this prominent achievement,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “This award uplifts her research while also advancing the research and visibility of Dr. Fornash and the College of Arts and Sciences.” 

Fornash, an assistant professor in OHIO’s Department of Geological Sciences, was selected from 167 applicants from ORAU’s 121 member universities. 

“I’m grateful to win this award and for the financial support in the early stages of my career which will enable me to get this project off the ground,” Fornash said. 

Fornash’s research looks at lawsonite eclogites, a type of metamorphic rock, that forms in subduction zones, places where tectonic plates meet. 

“Lawsonite eclogites, and lawsonite-bearing rocks more broadly, are important to study because they are petrologic indicators of subduction in deep time, contribute to element and water cycling in the Earth, and may also play a role in generating deep earthquakes,” Fornash said. 

While modeling studies indicate that lawsonite eclogite should be relatively common, it is only found in a handful of places, which is referred to as the “lawsonite paradox.” The scarcity of it is attributed to the unique pressure and temperature conditions thought to be required for its formation and preservation, Fornash explained. 

Fornash’s research will look at the paradox by looking at another variable, the composition of the rocks, to see if the formation and preservation of lawsonite eclogite requires a specific rock composition. 

The funding from the award will go towards geochemical analyses Fornash and her team of student researchers will complete to study lawsonite eclogites and minerals in them. 

Fornash is the second OHIO professor to receive this national recognition. Russ College of Engineering and Technology Assistant Professor Lei Wu also previously won the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award in 2018

“The Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award is a prestigious honor that recognizes Dr. Katherine Fornash’s research accomplishments to date and the significant potential of her future work,” Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Joseph Shields said. “Her selection for this award provides important visibility for her research, and OHIO’s commitment to excellence in advancing knowledge through discovery.”