Lewis Owen, a prominent geologist who has led an academic department at the University of Cincinnati for the past decade, has been named head of the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at NC State, effective Aug. 26.
As head of the department, Owen will oversee academic, administrative and budgetary matters for one of the nation’s top integrated geosciences departments. The department has about 300 students and 40 faculty and receives research funding, which totaled about $4 million in new projects in 2018-19, from a variety of federal and state agencies, as well as industry and non-governmental partners. Nearly all faculty and graduate students in the department conduct research, as well as about one-third of the department’s undergraduates.
Owen comes to NC State from the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati, where he had been a faculty member since 2004 and department head since 2009. His research focuses on understanding the nature and dynamics of Quaternary paleoenvironmental change and landscape evolution; environmental geology and natural hazards; and geoarchaeology, specifically along active plate margins. While at Cincinnati, he established two major laboratories to date geologic materials using cosmogenic nuclides and optically stimulated luminescence methods.
Owen’s research has made significant advances in learning more about glacial history of the Himalayan mountains, home to one of the Earth’s greatest concentrations of land-based ice; quantifying the ages and rates of landscape evolution in mountainous areas; and focusing on the timing and reoccurrence of very young faults along the southwest edge of North America, where the threat of major earthquakes affects tens of millions of people.
His work has shown a link between the internal and external surface processes in areas such as the Himalayas and their influence on long-term and recent climate change.
Owen is a previous winner Busk Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, which is awarded for field research in paleoenvironmental history and geomorphology in tectonically active areas. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Royal Geographical Society.
Owen received his bachelor’s degree in geology from the Imperial College of London and his Ph.D. in geology and geography from the University of Leicester in England.