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October 14, 2002

Discover magazine names three UCSC professors among the top 50 women in science

By Tim Stephens

The popular science magazine Discover has named three women on the faculty of UCSC among the "top 50 women scientists in the country" in an article in the magazine's November issue.

Sandra Faber Photo: r.r. jones
Terrie Williams
Marcia McNutt Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

The issue, which hits newsstands on October 15, features a series of articles about how women fare in science and celebrates the accomplishments of women scientists.

The three UCSC scientists featured in the magazine are Sandra Faber, University Professor of astronomy and astrophysics; Terrie Williams, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the Ida Benson Lynn Professor of Ocean Health; and Marcia McNutt, professor of Earth sciences at UCSC and the president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. (McNutt is identified in the magazine by her primary affiliation with MBARI.)

"I'm impressed that three women scientists from UCSC are represented on this list, and I think it reflects the fact that UCSC's science faculty is absolutely first class," Faber said.

Faber is renowned for her research on the formation and evolution of galaxies and the evolution of structure in the universe. Important concepts such as "cold dark matter" and the "Great Attractor" are direct results of work by Faber and her colleagues.

Two of the major optical astronomy ventures of recent years have benefited from Faber's involvement: the Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

One of her major projects in recent years has been leading the team that designed and built the DEIMOS spectrograph, a powerful new instrument installed this year on the Keck II Telescope.

Faber is a core member of the Deep Extragalactic Evolutionary Probe (DEEP) project, a large-scale survey of distant, faint galaxies using the Keck Telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope. She is also involved in research on adaptive optics as a senior member of the Center for Adaptive Optics at UCSC.

Faber's many honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In 1995, she was appointed University Professor, the highest honor for faculty in the UC system.

She earned her B.A. in physics from Swarthmore College and her Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. She joined the faculty of UC Santa Cruz and the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory in 1972.

Williams, an expert in animal physiology and energetics, has studied a wide range of marine mammals, including dolphins, seals, sea otters, and whales. She has also studied land animals, including cheetahs and wild dogs in Africa.

Her current research projects include studies of Weddell seals in Antarctica (where she is currently doing field research), Steller sea lions in Alaska, and sea otters in Alaska and California. Her research on dolphins includes ongoing work with the two resident dolphins at UCSC's Long Marine Laboratory, Primo and Puka.

Williams is particularly interested in understanding the relationship between an animal's physiology and its environment. Her investigations offer insights into the capacity of marine mammals to tolerate environmental changes. The populations of some of the animals she studies, including California sea otters and Steller sea lions in the North Pacific, have been declining for reasons that are still unclear.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill marked a turning point for Williams, who directed the Valdez Sea Otter Rescue Center and coordinated a scientific research team to assess the effects of crude oil on marine birds and mammals. She said the experience made her realize she could not simply focus on her research and let others do conservation.

Williams currently serves as a scientific adviser for California's Oiled Wildlife Care Network and as an adviser to the National Marine Fisheries Service's Steller Sea Lion Recovery Team.

Williams received her B.A. in biology from Douglass College in New Brunswick, N.J., and her M.S. in physiology and Ph.D. in environmental and exercise physiology from Rutgers University. She came to UCSC in 1993 as a marine research physiologist in the Institute of Marine Sciences and joined the biology faculty as an assistant professor in 1994. In 2000, she became the first faculty member to hold the Ida Benson Lynn Endowed Chair in Ocean Health.

McNutt is a geophysicist whose research focuses on the physical properties of the Earth beneath the oceans. Recent projects include the history of volcanism in French Polynesia and how it relates to broadscale convection in the Earth's mantle, continental breakup in the western United States, and the uplift of the Tibet plateau. Her research is both theoretical and field-based, using data she has collected on nearly two dozen oceanographic expeditions.

Since 1997, McNutt has been president and CEO of MBARI, a research laboratory in Moss Landing funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to develop and exploit new technology for the exploration of the oceans. A primary focus of the institute is designing and building new tethered and autonomous underwater vehicles and in situ sensor packages for increasing the spatial and temporal sampling of the ocean and its inhabitants.

McNutt received a B.A. in physics from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and a Ph.D. in Earth sciences from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. She spent 15 years on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was appointed the Griswold Professor of Geophysics.

She is a past president of the American Geophysical Union and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. McNutt joined the UCSC faculty in 1998. She also holds a faculty position at Stanford University.

Discover magazine's list of the "50 most important women in science" includes eight faculty members of the University of California, representing the Berkeley, Davis, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz campuses.

In 1991, Discover also had a special issue on women in science in which two UCSC faculty were featured: Adrienne Zihlman, professor of anthropology (who appeared on the cover), and Deborah Letourneau, professor of ecology (environmental studies).

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