Lagroix Receives 2008 William Gilbert Award

France Lagroix received the William Gilbert Award at the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 17 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes outstanding and unselfish work in magnetism of Earth materials and of the Earth and planets.


lagroix_franceIt’s a great pleasure to be able to say a few words about this year’s recipient of the William Gilbert Award, France Lagroix. She is a former student at the Institute for Rock Magnetism, so we had a front-row seat as she developed from a bright graduate student to an accomplished geophysicist. At Minnesota, France studied magnetic anisotropy in windblown loess from Alaska to extract paleoclimate records of regional wind directions over the past 130,000 years. France may not have been the first to discover magnetic anisotropy in loess deposits, but in her typically proactive manner she estimated errors that could compromise the original anisotropy record, and then developed magnetic techniques to recognize and correct for them. She further sampled and studied over 4000 hand samples to isolate statistically significant changes in anisotropy repre-senting changes in wind directions in Alaska when glacial climates gave way to interglacials. One of her letter writers states, “These observations and interpretations of Dr. Lagroix have opened a new field not only for decoding Alaska’s paleoclimate but also [for yielding] the potential for global paleoclimate reconstruction since loess is the most frequent rock type on the surface of continents.”

France moved on to the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, where she has assembled a multi-institutional rock magnetism group that brings together rock magnetists and condensed matter physicists to study the magnetism of iron oxide nanoparticles. Already in her young career, France’s research places her in an elite group of new rock magnetists destined to be the future leaders of our discipline. She is breaking new grounds of research in the application of magnetism to broad Earth science questions, is demonstrating how mutual collaboration is the essential ingredient for frontier research in Earth sciences today, and is most deserving of the 2008 William Gilbert Award.


Bruce M. Moskowitz and Subir K. Banerjee, Institute for Rock Magnetism, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis


I would like to thank, first, my peers, who deemed that the scientific contributions I have made so far were worthy of a nomination, and second, the AGU Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism award committee for honoring these works with the 2008 William Gilbert Award. I have had, and continue to have, the privilege of working with scientists who are truly passionate about science. Their dedication to finding answers to unsolved questions is, to say the least, infectious. A healthy dose of chance and opportunity led me to the two advisors and mentors, Graham J. Borradaile and Subir K. Banerjee, who introduced me to the applications of magnetic fabrics and paleomagnetism to solving structural and tectonics problems, and the fundamentals of rock and mineral magnetism and its application to loess and other sedimentary systems, respectively.

The years spent at Lakehead University (Thunder Bay, Canada), first as an undergraduate (1993–1997), then as a master’s student (1997–1999), and finally as a research associate (1999–2000), served to build a solid foundation of geology, enabling my growth as a critical thinker. And the years spent at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) preparing my doctoral dissertation (2000–2004) were enriching, bringing depth with respect to my understanding of mineral magnetism and breadth as a geoscientist. Since 2004, as a research scientist at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (France), efforts have been fruitful in establishing new experimental platforms aimed at furthering, in the years to come, our understanding and solving remaining questions in the field of mineral and rock magnetism and its numerous geological and geophysical applications.

Finally, to my colleagues and friends and to my family, your encouragement, understanding, and support make possible balancing the various facets of life.


France Lagroix, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Paris, France