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October 23, 2017

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Geophysicist receives Nevada’s most prestigious science honor

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Courtesy of DRI

Marcia McNutt, center, is presented the Nevada Medal by Desert Research Institute President Kristen Averyt and Gov. Brian Sandoval at the Hard Rock Hotel on Sept. 27, 2017.

Geophysicist Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, was bestowed the Nevada Medal, the state's highest recognition for science, by the Desert Research Institute on Wednesday.

The Nevada Medal was established in 1988 to acknowledge outstanding achievement in the fields of science and engineering. Desert Research Institute President Kristen Averyt said the choice was clear at the ceremony at Hard Rock Hotel.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have Dr. McNutt here,” Averyt said. “We haven't had anybody with her level of accomplishments in science (honored).”

McNutt, who served as director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009-2013, has responded to several major disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. She also took part in 15 major oceanographic expeditions, serving as chief scientist on more than half of them.

McNutt’s research includes studies of ocean island volcanism in French Polynesia, continental breakup in the Western United States and uplift of the Tibet plateau. She is a former editor-in-chief of the journal Science.

McNutt spent a few days with the Desert Research Institute team in Las Vegas and Reno. She said the state’s work is on par with any in the world.

“The Desert Research Institute is truly a world-class place, and Nevada is lucky to have this caliber of research going on here,” she said. “Agencies that support the work here (typically choose only) one in 10 of the proposals they get. The fact that they’re supporting work here is a sign of how good the investigators are.”

McNutt praised Averyt, an expert in natural and human-induced environmental change who became the Desert Research Institute’s eighth president in July.

“She’s brought new energy, new excitement and new vision to DRI. It really shows,” McNutt said. “I’ve been going around talking to the staff here, and they’ve really sensed her enthusiasm for the place and I feel that in the institute”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said McNutt’s résumé speaks for itself.

“We’re really proud of the Nevada Medal — it’s one of a kind in the country. It’s really an example of us celebrating science in the great state of Nevada,” Sandoval said. “Dr. McNutt is a world-renowned scientist and is very accomplished, and she is a very worthy recipient of the award.”

With Averty and McNutt both the first women presidents of their respective organizations, Sandoval hopes that gives the next generation of female scientists confidence they too can break through in the industry.

“Both of them are incredible people, the right leaders at the right time,” Sandoval said. “To be able to feature them is very exciting. It will be something that is very inspiring to young women to go into science and that they can be very accomplished.”

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