Gazel Receives 2016 Hisashi Kuno Award

Esteban Gazel will receive the Hisashi Kuno Award at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 12–16 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “accomplishments of junior scientists who make outstanding contributions to the fields of volcanology, geochemistry, and petrology.”


Esteban showed up at Lamont as a postdoc and took the place by storm. Fresh from a Ph.D. at Rutgers with Claude Herzberg and Mike Carr, and already with a Nature paper under his belt on the secular cooling of plumes, he promptly wrote several successful NSF proposals, and started up projects with me, Conny Class, and Peter Kelemen. I just stood back and watched Esteban go, in awe of his drive and enthusiasm. To use one of my father’s favorite expressions—he’s a house afire.

For much of his career, Esteban has explored the crosstalk between the Galapagos hot spot and the Costa Rica volcanic arc. Of course, they communicate through the subduction of the Galapagos plume track material, and Esteban discovered the compositional effects of a plume on an arc. Most recently, in a Nature Geoscience paper, he has shown how this region, almost unique in the globe, is currently cooking up bona fide continental crust. By developing a geochemical Continental Index and relating it to seismic velocities, Esteban proposed a new recipe for continental formation that involves some familiar processes, like slab melting, and more exotic ingredients, like enriched oceanic crust.

At Virginia Tech, Esteban has in a short time built a large group of young scientists who are already starting their own careers. With them, Esteban is working on everything from Virginia volcanoes to the break-up of Rodinia and the magmas of Mars.

As Esteban likes to say, geology is the passion of his life. He was born in Costa Rica and grew up on the volcanoes he has studied. He is already known to the President of Costa Rica, having been recognized with the Costa Rican National Award of Science. For the discoveries he has made on hot spots, volcanic arcs, and the continental crust, let us recognize him here with the 2016 Hisashi Kuno Award.

—Terry Plank, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.


Thank you, Terry, for your kind words. I also want to acknowledge the Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology section for awarding me the great honor of being the recipient of this year’s Hisashi Kuno Award. Special thanks to Roberta Rudnick for the nomination and my supportive colleagues who wrote letters. Finally, none of this would be possible without the unconditional support of my wife, Naya, and the educational opportunities from both Costa Rica and the United States.

My geologic adventure started many years ago, as my childhood was crafted with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. During my undergraduate years at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), my fascination for deciphering the Earth’s secrets evolved from simple curiosity to becoming the passion of my life. I met Mike Carr, my Ph.D. advisor, during one of his visits to the UCR, and Kaj Hoernle and Lina Patino were also important influences during my undergraduate education. During my Ph.D. at Rutgers, Mike became a dean, which allowed for me to have the opportunity to work on mantle petrology with Claude Herzberg.

By the end of my Ph.D., thanks to Peter Kelemen and Terry Plank’s support, I was lucky enough to receive the Postdoctoral Fellowship at Lamont. At Lamont, I not only made my first steps to understanding volatiles in magmas, but also learned how to write competitive proposals, think on a larger scale, and properly communicate my science. I got to work with, among others, Peter, Terry, Conny Class, and Al Hofmann, who not only became my mentors but also my friends. For the past five years at Virginia Tech my network of supportive colleagues and friends grew. Today, I share with my students the joy of doing what I love, working on solving the puzzles of the Earth one piece at a time.

—Esteban Gazel, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg