An international team of earth scientists has linked the establishment of the Mekong River to a period of major intensification of the Asian monsoon during the middle Miocene, about 17 million years ago, findings that supplant the assumption that the…
Michael ’72 and Susan Thonis Establish Second Endowed Professorship of Earth Sciences
Tripti Bhattacharya, assistant professor of Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and an expert in climate science, has been named the Thonis Family Professor (II). The professorship has been endowed through the generosity of Board of Trustees Vice Chair Michael Thonis ’72, and his wife, Susan (Tufts ’80).
Bhattacharya has joined the Department of Earth Sciences faculty this fall from the University of Arizona, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow. “Tripti is a rising star in the field of climate science,” says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karin Ruhlandt. “Her research is universally regarded by the faculty as at the forefront of her discipline, and she is well poised to make a significant impact on the field.”
Her work focuses on understanding the physical mechanisms that govern rainfall variability in the tropics and subtropics. To do this, she uses state-of-the-art methods in organic chemistry to reconstruct past rainfall. She also uses climate models to pinpoint the physical drivers of climate change over geologic time. This interdisciplinary work is at the forefront of the fields of paleoclimatology and climate physics. She is the lead co-author of an article, “Ice sheet modulation of deglacial North American monsoon intensification,” that was published in the prominent journal Nature Geoscience on Sept. 3.
Bhattacharya comes to Syracuse following a national search, according to Laura Lautz, Jessie Page Heroy Professor and chair of the Department of Earth Sciences. Bhattacharya, she notes, was recently interviewed in the national media about climate science and federal funding. “Her research on recent climate change has strong human and cultural implications,” Lautz says. “Dr. Bhattacharya will be a strong contributor of undergraduate and graduate teaching in the department, and her courses in climate change at the lower and upper division will directly support the new integrated learning major (ILM) in environment, sustainability and policy, particularly given her background in physical geography.”
Bhattacharya is the second Thonis Family Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. Professor Suzanne L. Baldwin was named the inaugural Thonis Family Professor (I) in 2014.
“We are extremely grateful to Mike and Susan for endowing two professorships in Earth sciences,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “Their generosity has been integral in making Syracuse University the thriving international research university it is.”
Thonis is co-founder of Charlesbank Capital Partners in Boston and serves as senior advisor. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geology at SU, a master’s degree in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. at Harvard University. Although his career path has gone through the financial world, geology remains one of Thonis’ passions.
“For me, Earth science explains our world today in the broad context of deep place and time,” he says. “Tripti’s work contains the potential to reveal the path that our planet will take going forward, by better understanding the past and present.”
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be chosen to hold the Thonis Family Professorship,” says Bhattacharya. “The Thonis family has shown great dedication to promoting research and teaching in Earth sciences at Syracuse. I’m excited to bring new scholarship in climate science to campus as a result of their generous support.”
Bhattacharya has published in several prestigious journals, including Nature Geoscience, Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences and Science Advances. She has given more than 10 invited talks at national conferences and university seminars in the past year.
She was a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow during her Ph.D. work at the University of California, Berkeley. She was also the recipient of an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant and a co-investigator on an NSF grant from the Division of Ocean Sciences. Her dissertation research won the Denise Gaudreau Award for Excellence in Quaternary Studies, an award reserved for promising young scholars in the field, from the American Quaternary Association in 2014.
She is a member of the American Geophysical Union and a board member of her specialty group in the Association of American Geographers, and has served on several committees to promote diversity in STEM fields. She received a Ph.D. in paleoclimatology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016.