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Colette Heald awarded AGU James Macelwane Medal

Professor in civil and environmental engineering and earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences will be honored at an awards ceremony in December.
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Colette Heald
Colette Heald
Photo: Ken Dayton

Colette Heald, the Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), was awarded the American Geophysics Union (AGU) James B. Macelwane Medal on July 20 in recognition of “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist.”

Heald, an atmospheric chemist, is regarded as an international leader in biosphere-atmosphere interactions, aerosol sources, and transformations, with a particular focus on the connections between atmospheric chemistry and climate. Heald was promoted to associate professor with tenure this July.

"I'm very honored to have been nominated and supported by my colleagues for this prestigious AGU award,” she said. “Receiving the Macelwane medal is one of the highlights of my career.” 

Heald completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2005, and later became a NOAA Global and Climate Change Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley from 2006 to 2007. In 2008, she became an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and joined the MIT faculty in 2012.

Her work involves using observations of atmosphere from all scales — including ground stations, aircraft campaigns, and satellite sensors — combined with global models of chemistry and climate. During her time in CEE, Heald has advanced the overall understanding of the environmental impacts of both particles and gases. This past January, she presented her most recent study on the significance of environmental interactions on food crops at the 2015 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. In this particular work, Heald demonstrates how climate change and air pollution will eventually combine to diminish crop yields and ultimately pose a threat to global food security.

“Colette has been a pioneer in the field of atmospheric chemistry,” says Markus Buehler, CEE department head. “This honor reflects her exceptional skills in bridging models and observations to address critical research questions in atmospheric chemistry and climate that solve important problems with broad impact, which she also brings back to our students in classroom teaching and fieldwork.” 

Established in 1961, the Macelwane Medal is awarded to up to five recipients every year whose work demonstrates a variety of inspiring attributes including depth, grand impact, creativity, novelty, service, and outreach, and diversity. The medal was named in honor of former AGU president James B. Macelwane, a scientist celebrated for his contributions to geophysics and deep interest in teaching and encouraging young scientists.  

As part of the award, Heald is invited to submit an abstract during the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting for the "New Generation of Scientists" Union session — an event that is dedicated to the work of early career scientists like Heald.

Heald will be celebrated at the annual 2015 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony and Banquet on December 16 in San Francisco, along with the other medal recipients: Paul Cassak, Bethany Ehlmann, Matthew Jackson, and Katharine Maher.

Other recent MIT Macelwane Award winners include professors Taylor Perron (EAPS) in 2014, Jesse Kroll (CEE) in 2013, and Tanja Bosak (EAPS) in 2011. 

Heald’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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