Orcutt Joins Prestigious National Academy of Engineering


John Orcutt, a Distinguished Professor of Geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

The academy recognized Orcutt "for international leadership in development of new ocean-observing infrastructure and environmental and geophysics research," according to a citation released this week. Orcutt is among 68 researchers elected this year.

"I am very pleased to be elected to the NAE and was quite surprised when I received the call," said Orcutt, who also holds an appointment at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and serves on the executive committee of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UCSD.

According to the academy, membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature," and to the "pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

At Scripps, Orcutt is a member of the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) and was director there for 18 years. His areas of research are marine seismology applied to both crustal and mantle structure, particularly seismic tomography, theoretical seismology, applications of seismology to monitoring of nuclear tests and the exploitation of information technology for the collection and processing of real-time environmental data in many disciplines. He has been the chief scientist on more than 20 oceanographic expeditions.

Orcutt is the principal investigator of the cyberinfrastructure component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative, an ambitious endeavor to create networks to continuously observe important ocean processes. The $400-million National Science Foundation project is managed by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C.

Orcutt is past president of the 65,000-member American Geophysical Union (AGU). In 2002 he was appointed to the Science Advisory Panel for the President's Ocean Policy Commission and was elected to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, devoted to the advancement of scientific and scholarly inquiry. In 2007 he received the prestigious Marine Technology Society's Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Ocean Science and Engineering.

Orcutt received a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an MSc from the University of Liverpool (Fulbright Scholar). He received a doctorate in earth sciences from Scripps in 1976 and began his career as a Scripps researcher in 1977. He became a professor in 1982. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed publications, and has received numerous academic honors and awards including an appointment as a Secretary of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations Oceanography Chair. In 1998, he was named UCSD Alumnus of the Year.

Orcutt is also the former director of research and associate vice chancellor for marine sciences at Scripps.

Orcutt joins Scripps Professor of Oceanography William Kuperman as an active member of the academy. Deceased Scripps scientists who had been members include William Nierenberg, John Isaacs and Fred Spiess.

UCSD Biology Professor Terrence Sejnowski was also elected to the academy. Sejnowski, who is Francis Crick professor and director of the computational neurobiology laboratory at Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a professor of neurobiology at UCSD, was cited by the academy "for contributions to artificial and real neural network algorithms and applying signal processing models to neuroscience." 

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