Leinen Receives Alumni Achievement Award

Posted on 08.23.2015

Margaret Leinen, B.S. '69, assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Geosciences, has been awarded the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in the Department of Geology.

Leinen, who has been at NSF since 2000, administers all NSF programs in earth, atmosphere and ocean sciences. She is also in charge of a new interdisciplinary program in environmental research and education. In this role, she works with people from such diverse disciplines as biology, chemistry, engineering, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences to fashion environmental research programs.

Prior to taking senior position at NSF, Leinen was a professor of oceanography and dean of two colleges (the graduate school of oceanography and the college of the environment and life sciences) at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, she served as vice provost, with the responsibility of coordinating marine and environmental programs for the entire university.

Leinen's own research has focused on paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and the present-day processes that are responsible for the formation of the sedimentary record. She has had a very active sea-going research program, having been on 24 research cruises, including three cruises of the Ocean Drilling Program. She has led two ALVIN diving expeditions to the Juan de Fuca Ridge and Mariana back-arc environments to study the sedimentation from hydrothermal vents and has published widely on the record of biological sedimentation in the oceans.

In addition to her bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois, Leinen has a master's in geological oceanography from Oregon State University in 1975, and a Ph.D. in geological oceanography from the University of Rhode Island in 1980. Leinen has very fond memories of geology at Illinos. She had come intending to be a biochemist, but those classes were so large they were alienating. The only class smaller than 400 students was Leinen's geology class, with an enrollment of 100.

"I actually got to know the faculty member and I got to know the graduate student who was assisting." Leinen recalls. "And they took us out on field trips on the weekend. We all went out and our professor was there, and five or six graduate students were there to keep us all in line. It was fall term, it was winter in Illinois, and it was snowing, and it was muddy and it was cold, and they were right there with us. So when we were all freezing on the outcrop, they were freezing on the outcrop. When we were all sitting in the bus huddled with our lunches, they were right there with us. I had never had that type of relationship with a scientist or with a teacher. They were actually doing the same thing I was doing. It was very, very exciting."

Leinin will return to the UIUC campus during the Fall of 2003 to receive the award.