Jill McDermott introduces the teams

Jill McDermott, inaugural director of the new Lehigh Oceans Research Center, addresses attendees at the center's inaugural research symposium in the Health, Science and Technology Building,

Lehigh Oceans Research Center Holds Inaugural Symposium

The College of Arts and Sciences launches a new research center that focuses on the field of ocean science.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christine Kreschollek

The new Lehigh Oceans Research Center held its inaugural research symposium Jan. 29 in the Health, Science and Technology Building, showcasing the ongoing research into the Earth’s oceans by Lehigh faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

The new center, launched by the College of Arts and Sciences, will focus on marine science and address the most pressing questions facing the Earth’s oceans.

Four Lehigh researchers are affiliated with the center: Jill McDermott, associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences and the inaugural director of the center; Santiago Herrera, assistant professor of biological sciences; Michael Layden, associate professor of biological sciences; and John Paul Balmonte, assistant professor of Earth and environmental sciences.

“Lehigh Oceans is the vision of an interdisciplinary team of scientists who are committed to studying some of our most pressing environmental issues,” said Robert Flowers, the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We can all agree that the world’s oceans are vast, but they are also complex and largely unexplored. Understanding the world’s largest biome is critical to our future,” he said. “The core team of researchers comprising Lehigh Oceans, along with the students they mentor, will help advance our knowledge about the origins of life on Earth, and what creates a healthy ecosystem and thriving planet.”

Santiago Herrera, assistant professor of biological sciences, reviews a poster

Santiago Herrera, left, assistant professor of biological sciences, reviews one of the posters that was part of the symposium.

The symposium kicked off what the College of Arts and Sciences envisions as a series of regional and international symposia to foster conversations and collaboration with researchers around the world. Flowers said the center will offer meaningful research opportunities and financial support for researchers and students, including funding for seed proposals that can grow into larger research projects.

The new center aligns with Lehigh’s Strategic Plan, which provides a foundation for the next 10 years of excellence at Lehigh. A key initiative includes an investment in interdisciplinary research and the redefinition of an interdisciplinary education.

At the symposium, the center’s researchers provided an overview of their ongoing work and collaborations. Afterward, McDermott discussed the significance of the new center.

“One thing we all have in common is that we work in the ocean system,” she said. “One of the reasons this is vital is that the ocean is such a complex environment, that there isn’t just one system that can fully explain everything. We are better poised to find creative solutions to problems if we can bring together lots of different disciplines of science.”

Among those in the center are chemists, microbiologists, biologists and other scientists. The new center will enhance the connections among the researchers, she said, while allowing for more collaborations, including with those in mathematics and engineering.

Read more stories on the Lehigh News Center.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christine Kreschollek

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