Farquhar receives CMNS Board of Visitor’s Distinguished Faculty Award

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Geology Professor and ESSIC Researcher James Farquhar received the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) Board of Visitor’s Distinguished Faculty Award, given out once every five years to recognize outstanding accomplishments that have had a major impact and significantly raised the profile of CMNS.

Nominated by his Geology Department colleagues and ESSIC Director Antonio Busalacchi, Farquhar received the award for his work in stable isotope geochemistry.

“He is an exceptional scientist and in the world of geochemistry we specialize in different elements and he has specialized in the very important element of sulfur,” Geology Professor Richard L. Walker said, who wrote a letter of nomination for Farquhar. “He’s made a series of exceptionally important discoveries.”

One major accomplishment includes Farquhar’s discovery of large amounts of a specific variation of a sulfur isotope that reveals the state of oxygen in the atmosphere two billion years ago.

“From a standpoint of evolution of life that’s very, very important because that’s when oxygen became a major part of our atmosphere,” Walker said.

For the award, each department within the college nominates one person to the Board of Visitors, who then votes on the final selection.

According to CMNS Director of Operations Gene Ferrick, the Board of Visitors consists of faculty from the college, alumni, and distinguished individuals who are friends of the university and the college who offer guidance to the dean.

The board meets once a year, and will meet next week to honor Farquhar.

“For the Distinguished Faculty Award he gets five thousand dollars that he can spend wherever he wants,” Ferrick said. “For this particular award, he will attend a Board of Visitor’s dinner and lunch, and will spend some time and share his work or give a little seminar.”

Upon receiving the award, Farquhar himself was actually unsure which accomplishments led to his nomination, but immediately expressed his gratitude toward his co-workers and strong support from the university.

“Some people do science and work on things independently, but the way I’ve always done it is with students and researchers in my post doc group,” he said. “If you look at all the work that I’ve done, there’s clearly my work but then a lot of it is facilitated by those people.”

He also praised his co-workers, and was surprised to be nominated because of the other high caliber individuals in the college.

In his nomination, Busalacchi not only emphasized Farquhar’s scientific advances, but the important role that he has played as a mentor to his students.

“At the university that’s a very important thing and James does a very good job of that,” he said.

Farquhar also said that the award is an excellent way to motivate researchers.

“I think it’s a great thing to have for the university and the college to have these type of things because they get people excited and get them working,” he said.