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Ramos first endowed chair in NMSU College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Frank Ramos was selected as the first-ever endowed chair in the College of Arts and Sciences in the New Mexico State University Department of Geological Sciences.

Dr. Frank Ramos was selected as the first-ever endowed chair for the New Mexico State University College of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Geological Sciences. He began his duties this semester. (NMSU Photo by Daniella De Luca)

This endowed chair was established through Michael L. Johnson and his wife, Judy, who gave a $1 million gift to the department of geological sciences in July 2006. Johnson holds a bachelor of science in geology from NMSU, a master's in geochemistry from Rice University and a master's in finance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has since served in leadership roles on the NMSU Foundation Board and the Dean's Council of Excellence in Sciences. Johnson was recently nominated and appointed as Vice President of the Foundation Board.

The Johnsons created the endowed position to promote geosciences research and exemplify outstanding undergraduate teaching and research opportunities in the department of geological sciences. Ramos was the "stand out" of three interviews done in 2007 and was chosen to be the advocate for the department, said Nancy McMillan, academic department head of geology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Ramos is an isotope geochemist - a scientist who uses chemical and isotopic characteristics to identify and understand processes. Such characteristics can be used for a range of purposes. Although Ramos mainly focuses on young volcanic rocks, he has broader interests that focus on waters and biological materials such as fish bones. For example, he evaluates the isotopic signatures of salmon ear bones to identify the rivers in which salmon originated and to evaluate the behaviors that best promote successful migration and ultimately reproduction of the species. Such research directly impacts the viability of vital fish stocks that compromise critical food sources throughout the United States and the world.

"Geology isn't only about rocks," he said. "The great thing about what I do is that I can do other things (as in the salmon study) and study rocks, too," Ramos said. Highlights of other research projects include studying active and potentially active, life-threatening volcanoes and determining the volcanic processes and sources that generated their eruptive products.

Ramos began on Aug. 18 and teaches Introduction to Geology and Introduction to Geochemistry this semester. He is on a five-year tenure track and has already secured grant funding for three separate research projects, including evaluating the mechanisms responsible for volcanic eruptions at Valles caldera near Los Alamos, N.M.

Ramos holds a Ph.D. from UCLA earned in 2000 and his dissertation focused on young volcanoes in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Internationally, he is currently studying the Baitoushan volcano located on the border of China and North Korea. Ramos comes to NMSU from Central Washington University where he was a research associate pursing a range of problems using both radiogenic and stable isotopes.

"Thanks to the generosity of Michael and Judy Johnson, we have been able to attract a top scholar who will make a lasting contribution to NMSU," said university president Waded Cruzado. "We are proud to have Dr. Frank Ramos joining our faculty and serving as a living bridge that will unite the legacy of Dr. Michael Johnson and generations of future NMSU students," she said.

McMillan also expressed her excitement and gratitude of this new addition to the faculty. "What better way to create and affect change in the department in an age of tight resources," she said.

"There's no better way to do it than to give us another brain and another set of hands. I'm thrilled that it's Frank, who is such a creative scientist and also very student-centered," she said. "He's going to add a new dimension to the department."