For immediate release: 11/28/2011 | NR-11-11-05

Geochemist Tom Guilderson wins E.O. Lawrence Award for radiocarbon work

Anne M Stark, LLNL, (925) 422-9799, stark8@llnl.gov



University of Otago graduate student Alissa Quinn and LLNL scientist Tom Guilderson look on as Will Howard of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) sections a sediment core from the ocean floor of the subtropic South Pacific near New Zealand.

Laboratory Geochemist Tom Guilderson has been named a winner of the Department of Energy's prestigious Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today.

Guilderson is being honored for ground-breaking radiocarbon measurements of corals, advancements in understanding the paleo-history of ocean currents and ocean processes revealing past climate variability, and the explanation of how physical and biogeochemical oceanic processes affect the global carbon cycle.

The award honors mid-career scientists and engineers for exceptional contributions in research and development supporting the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration and its mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States.

Guilderson, 46, is the senior research scientist in the natural carbon research group at the Laboratory's Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry and a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Ocean Sciences and Institute of Marine Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz.

"I have been able to do the science I do because of the people that I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from," Guilderson said. "Much of what happens in science is luck but at some level you start to make your own luck by being in the right place and knowing enough to ask a good question and doors begin to open."

CAMS Director Graham Bench has worked with Guilderson for years and was part of a committee that nominated him for the award.

"There are things in particular that set Tom apart from everyone else," Bench said. "He is absolutely dedicated to rigorous scientific research and he is an excellent mentor to up and coming scientists."

Guilderson received his bachelor's degree in marine science (cum laude and with honors) from the University of South Carolina in 1987, after which he spent two years working in the Department of Geological Sciences' Stable Isotope Laboratory.  He spent the next few years (when he wasn't out to sea on experimental missions) at Columbia University and Lamont Doherty Earth (Geological) Observatory obtaining his masters' degrees and PhD. He rounded out his postdoctoral appointment at Princeton and Harvard universities and CAMS prior to becoming a full-time CAMS researcher.


Tom Guilderson

Guilderson's research has two primary but inter-related themes, climate variability and the carbon cycle -- past, present, and future. In a broad sense, his climate research has centered around documenting and understanding natural climate variability with a focus on tropical-extra-tropical connections in the oceanic and terrestrial realm. More recently he has, in collaboration with researchers within DOE as well as at Scripps and NOAA, been working on developing atmospheric 14CO2 records to better explain modern day carbon fluxes.

John Knezovich, former CAMS director and current director of University Relations and Science Education, hired Guilderson as a postdoc and a full-time researcher and said he is more than deserving of the award.

"Tom truly embodies the passion for science that we look for and in a highly collaborative way," Knezovich said. "He's a leader without being selfish about sharing of information or data."

Guilderson's background in geology and ocean science is what brought him into the natural carbon research group at CAMS.

"He brought that expertise with him," Knezovich said. "We saw the potential for a niche for CAMS in this area. If we were going to make it in this area, we knew Tom was the one to take us there."

Guilderson is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and Sigma Xi.

The E.O. Lawrence Award -- named for the physicist who co-founded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- comes with a citation signed by the Secretary of Energy, a gold medal bearing the likeness of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, and $20,000. Guilderson will receive the official award at a ceremony later this year.

Guilderson is the 28th current or former LLNL employee to receive an E.O. Lawrence Award.


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.