When Yemane Asmerom came to The University of New Mexico more than 20 years ago, he had a dream to build a state-of-the-art laboratory that would conduct world class research second to none. With the help of many collaborators, colleagues and staff at UNM, across the nation and around the world, he has been able to achieve that dream.

Scientific organizations have taken notice of the Asmerom’s research and are recognizing his work. Last year, Asmerom, who is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory, was recognized as one of 70 Geological Society of America Fellows.

Now, the Geochemical Society (GS) and the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) are recognizing Asmerom with the honorary title of Geochemistry Fellow, an award bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry.

Asmerom, who is the first UNM professor to be honored with the title, will be recognized along with 11 other Geochemistry Fellows from around the world in June at the 2016 Goldschmidt Conference in Yokohama, Japan.

“I am truly humbled to be honored by the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry,” Asmerom said. “This coming, after being made fellow by the Geological Society of America last year, is particularly gratifying. 

“The people who were not explicitly recognized are of course my collaborators and my support system at UNM and elsewhere. I have them to thank for most of it. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and it is nice to be recognized by my colleagues the world over for the work I have done, but also for what we have accomplished here.”

Asmerom’s research interests range from early evolution of the solar system to climate change on earth, geochemistry and applications of radiogenic isotopes for the study of the solid earth, oceans and climate through time.

With his longtime collaboration with Sr. Research Scientist Victor Polyak, Asmerom has conducted research projects all over the world with project funding from a number of programs at the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy. Recent research projects include Dating Naia, a 13,000-year-old teenager that helped establish a link between ancient and modern Native Americans (May 2014) and establishing a link between rainfall reduction and industrial emissions (April 2015).

“The single most important component of this recognition is obviously my collaboration with Dr. Polyak, said Asmerom. “Victor had a fundamental hand in much of what I’m being recognized for. Our beginning was just serendipitous and I think we both prospered here, and it’s been really great having him manage my lab and to also be a partner intellectually and otherwise.”

Asmerom’s research also would not be possible without the support of many in the department, across campus and on an institutional level.

“The other thing I think is in regard to the kind of work we do,” he said. “We have large infrastructure that we need to maintain. You need people who are both technically capable, but who also show the same commitment to their work. I think the College of Arts and Sciences has been very good in that regard historically, including the present.

“Additionally, I want to thank all the people who provide support and maintain our amazing facilities in the Department and UNM Physical Plant Area 4."

Asmerom, who has been at UNM for more than 20 years, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1988 followed by postdoctoral and research work at Harvard and the University of Minnesota.

The European Association of Geochemistry, EAG, was officially established in 1985 with the goal of promoting geochemistry internationally and in particular providing a forum for the presentation of geochemistry, exchange of ideas, publications and recognition of scientific excellence.

In 1996, the Geochemical Society (GS) and the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) established the honorary title of Geochemistry Fellow, to be bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry.