Geology Professor Awarded Centennial Professor Honor

May 13, 2009
News Photo 4710Dr. Jay Pulliam

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Dr. Jay Pulliam, W.M Keck Foundation Professor of Geophysics at Baylor University, has been selected unanimously for the 2009 Baylor Centennial Professor award, which will allow him to research the subduction of the Indian-Australian plate.

"I am honored and deeply gratified that the Baylor Centennial Class Enrichment Fund has chosen to support this work," Pulliam said. "This project carries significant implications for society and, therefore, it is especially important to me. The Andaman Sea is a complex region that can only be studied with seafloor instrumentation, which limits the number of groups who can carry out such research, and discussions with the Indian National Institute of Oceanography have likewise been complex. I am convinced this award will allow us to 'close the deal' and get the field deployment on the 2010 schedule."

Pulliam's research is directed toward explaining the stresses along the lithospheric plate boundary in the Andaman Sea. This location is where the rupture ended after the great Sumatra earthquake in 2004. This earthquake and its resulting tsunami devastated many communities around the rim of the Indian Ocean, claiming thousands of lives.

Pulliam said such "great" earthquakes are inevitable, but the large number of deaths that resulted from the 2004 Sumatra earthquake are not. Although earthquake prediction is not possible, researchers are able to predict how an earthquake fault will ultimately "fail" if they have a complete understanding of stress orientations and magnitudes. This understanding can aid modeling that allows researchers to predict the levels of shaking at various locations and the levels of wave "run up" due to a tsunami, which, in turn, could influence local and national building codes.

"Monitoring undersea faults requires the unusual sort of instrumentation that we can bring to bear," Pulliam said. "My colleagues at India's National Institute of Oceanography are enthusiastic about our collaboration and I am optimistic that the travel and negotiations made possible by this award will lead to a large-scale project in the Andaman Sea, and hopefully more than a single project."

The Class of 1945 - the Baylor Centennial Class - established an endowment fund to support faculty development. Each year, a Baylor tenured faculty member is designated as the Centennial Professor and is provided with funds for a project that will facilitate the development of his or her ability to function as a university professor and contribute to academic life.

Past recipients of the Centennial Professor Award include Dr. Robert Darden (Journalism); Dr. Joe B. Fulton (English); Dr. Richard Riley (political science); Dr. Eric Rust (history); Dr. Michael Long (modern foreign languages) and Dr. Karl Umlauf (art).

For more information, contact Dr. Joe Cox, chair of the Centennial Faculty Development Review Committee, at (254) 710-6193.

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