Josef Dufek

2012 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner


Josef Dufek was awarded the 2012 James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 5 December 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist.”



Joe Dufek is an extraordinary young scientist whose research is characterized by deep intellectual content and rigor.  He has contributed significantly to our understanding of the dynamics and petrology of magmatic systems, and to physical volcanology, tectonophysics, and planetary volcanism.   Even at such an early stage in his career, ‘Joe’s contributions have transformed our understanding of magma chamber dynamics and the physics of volcanic eruption.


Joe was born and raised in Lander, Wyoming. He is a small town boy who greatly alarmed his parents by moving to the big city to do his undergraduate work at the University of Chicago. There, he had the good fortune to be mentored in volcanic petrology by Fred Anderson and Paul Wallace. After graduating from Chicago, Joe matriculated to the University of Washington, where he studied with George Bergantz, who instilled in Joe his keen insights in quantitative petrology, specifically in multiphase flow and eruption dynamics.  I knew Joe when he was a graduate student at Washington, and he was then one of those very rare students who are best mentored by not getting in the way of their focused intellectual momentum.  Before joining the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Joe was awarded a Miller Fellow at U.C. Berkeley, and there benefitted significantly from interaction with Michael Manga and his group, gaining a deeper appreciation of the need to develop constitutive relations that incorporate microphysics to accurately model first-order dynamical features of pyroclastic flow.


Joe works on the origin of complexity and the dynamics of magmatic systems at the interface between observational Earth and planetary sciences, and continuum physics. His credibility rests on a keen interest and respect for the observational realm and is framed by awareness that lasting progress requires integration of real-time data, geological deposits, and remote sensing within the rationalizing context of physics and chemistry.  He has published important research on particle-particle collisions and their effects on flow in volcanic conduits, on the interaction between mafic dike injection and melting of the lower crust, on multiphase transport processes of pyroclastic flows including the tracking and fate of individual phenocrysts, and the thermomechanical coupling of crustal dynamics to magma chamber processes. Joe is someone who chooses to work on difficult and complex problems that are firmly grounded in observation.  He always demonstrates the relevancy of the outcomes of computational models to field observables. He understands instinctively how to creatively formulate and execute a model that informs those observations in a substantive and discriminating way. 


Joe was the 2010 recipient of the Kuno Award from the VGP section of the AGU and the 2011 recipient of the George Walker Award from IAVCEI.  With the award of the Macelwane Medal, Joe has achieved well deserved recognition for his broad research accomplishments, for his intellectual generosity that fuels an intense collaborative research style, and for the transformative potential his future work will surely have in the fields of magma physics, petrology, and physical volcanology.


                                                        –Mark Ghiorso, OFM Research, Seattle, Washington



Thank you Mark for your kind words, and thanks also to AGU and the Macelwane committee for this unexpected honor, and to my nominators for their support.

I feel very honored and touched to receive the James B. Macelwane Medal. And more than anything I feel very lucky because there are many fantastic young scientists. My work would not have been possible without the immense support of mentors and friends who have influenced and taught me a great deal at every step along the way. I have had the chance to interact with many excellent scientists over the last decade, and I really owe them all a debt of gratitude.

My introduction to Earth sciences came from classes as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. Ray Pierrehumbert introduced me to the world of fluid dynamics and planetary research. I also had the great fortune to meet Alfred Anderson, and through work in his lab and generous discussions, learned much about volcanology. I cannot thank Fred enough for his patient explanations.  Through Fred I was given the opportunity to interact with many excellent people at a young age including Paul Wallace and Youxue Zhang.

During graduate school at the University of Washington, George Bergantz taught me a great deal about geology and fluid flow as we examined problems in the lower crust and eruption dynamics. He taught me the importance of always going back to the rock record and delving into difficult problems. I look back fondly on times with Olivier Bachmann and George Bergantz brainstorming at coffee shops and on sunny Greek outcrops. During this time period I also had the opportunity to interact with Mark Ghiorso, and the thermodynamics I learned then influences my research to this day. While in Seattle, Ron Merrill, Kari Cooper, Bruce Nelson, Stu McCallum, Robert Winglee and Chris Newhall and many others were all very influential to me, as were my excellent graduate cohort.

I had the great luck to join the Miller postdoctoral program at Berkeley following graduate school, and my continuing collaboration with Michael Manga has been very fulfilling. Berkeley also introduced me to several amazing young scientists and future collaborators including, Chris Huber, Leif Karlstrom, and Tim Creyts.

Over the last years I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many people who have taught me much including Mark Ghiorso, Mark Jellinek, Dennis Geist, Karen Harpp, Brittany Brand, Ben Andrews, and Rob Lillis among many others. My colleagues at Georgia Tech have been absolutely supportive including our chair Judy Curry, Peter Webster, Irina Sokolik, Thanos Nenes and my geophysics colleagues Andy Newman, Zhigang Peng, Chris Huber, Carol Paty, and James Wray. I especially want to thank my students who work hard and have much potential, including Jenn Telling, Joe Estep, Mary Benage, Ozge Karakas, Cindy Young, and Josh Mendez.


Mostly, I want to thank my parents and brother for their support, and my wife, Carol, for incite, caring, and extreme patience.

                                                            –Josef Dufek, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia