Nyblade Receives 2012 Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service

Andrew Nyblade received the Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the fields of geodesy, seismology, or tectonophysics through mentoring of junior colleagues, leadership of community research initiatives, or other forms of unselfish collaboration in research.


NybladeAndrew Nyblade is the first recipient of AGU’s new Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service. This award is given jointly by the Seismology, Geodesy, and Tectonophysics sections to a section member who has made outstanding contributions to these fields through mentoring of junior colleagues, leadership of community research initiatives, or other forms of unselfish collaboration in research. The award was named for the late Paul Silver as a tribute to the excellence and generosity of his scientific service and the importance of his research on mantle anisotropy, continental evolution, subduction zone dynamics, and earthquake source processes.

Andy Nyblade received a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in Ohio and his Ph.D. in 1992 from the University of Michigan. He then did a postdoc at Penn State, where he has largely been ever since, becoming a full professor in 2007. Andy is a first-rate scientist who has specialized in seismic and other geophysical investigations of the African continent, which have highlighted the unique dynamical and thermal properties of the African mantle. His service contributions have been truly exceptional, in particular his development and leadership of the AfricaArray project, which has established key programs to improve African geophysics education and instrumentation.

Working in collaboration with African scientists, AfricaArray has installed a number of seismic stations across Africa, while training young African seismologists in order to build an in-house capability to collect, analyze, and interpret the data, which of course are also freely available to scientists around the world. The goal is not simply to collect African data and leave but to build local institutions, infrastructure, and expertise. The program has now expanded to include geodesy and other fields.

The success of this project required Andy’s vision and drive, his ability to build and sustain relationships, and his perseverance in obtaining funding from a variety of sources. He has supervised and mentored many African students who have come to Penn State. In addition, Andy has worked to improve geoscience training for students in U.S. minority-serving institutions, including historically black colleges and Hispanic-serving universities in Texas and California. He has served as an outstanding research advisor and mentor to numerous younger scientists, many of whom have gone on to faculty positions themselves. Overall, Andy Nyblade has compiled an outstanding record of service, including unique contributions to educating underserved populations in both Africa and the United States, as well as obtaining new data sets and important new research results.

PETER M. SHEARER, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.


I would like to thank Peter Shearer for his citation and the Seismology, Geodesy, and Tectonophysics sections for this honor. Paul Silver was a friend and mentor, and so receiving this award is especially meaningful. I first met Paul in 1993 when I was a postdoc writing a National Science Foundation proposal to deploy a seismic network in Tanzania and recall his strong encouragement to not cut back on the size of the project in spite of the cost. The project, which was funded, helped pave the way for the development of AfricaArray more than a decade later, illustrating Paul’s far-reaching influence on the community through his support of junior scientists.

While I am receiving this award in large part because of the achievements of the AfricaArray initiative, those achievements are not mine alone but reflect the dedication and efforts of many scientists; their willingness to share research infrastructure, data, and training courses; and their commitment to improving geoscience education in Africa. In 2004, when Paul Dirks, then head of the School of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I developed the plan for AfricaArray, it was abundantly clear that we needed to address the underrepresentation of students from disadvantaged communities in South Africa. We soon realized that extending a focus on diversity to other African countries, as well as to the United States, would serve to further strengthen AfricaArray, and thus, a multinational diversity program was made a cornerstone of the initiative, along with a pan-African seismic network and a training program for African postdocs and students.

I would like to thank all of the many AfricaArray partners, faculty, postdocs, students, and sponsors and, in particular, Paul Dirks, Ray Durrheim, Roger Gibson, and Sue Webb (University of the Witwatersrand) and Gerhard Graham (Council for Geoscience, South Africa) for their important contributions to building AfricaArray.

ANDREW NYBLADE, Pennsylvania State University, University Park