Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory director G. Michael Purdy has been named Columbia University’s executive vice president for research. Taking over as interim director of the observatory is associate director Arthur Lerner-Lam. The moves, effective Feb. 1, were announced by Columbia president Lee Bollinger and Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs in emails to staff January 19.
Purdy has served as director of Lamont for the past 10 years. “There he helped build a world renowned interdisciplinary research institution with the capacity to apply its scientific expertise to the complex problems facing a global society,” said Bollinger. “He possesses not only the respected scholarly and administrative experience required for this position, but also a deep familiarity with Columbia’s academic culture, and our ambitious goals for scientific research in the years ahead. “ Purdy, a marine geophysicist, previously led geology and geophysics research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and served at the U.S. National Science Foundation, where he oversaw the budget providing the primary source of funding for ocean sciences at the nation’s universities. He is the author of nearly 200 journal articles and other reports. He succeeds David Hirsh, who has served as vice president for research since the post was created in 2003.
Lerner-Lam currently heads Lamont’s Division of Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics. An expert in earthquakes and other natural hazards, he is “a renowned pioneer in bringing seismological knowledge to earthquake-affected communities around the world,” said Sachs. Among other things, he recently helped lead an international scientific task force aimed at helping earthquake-ravaged Haiti rebuild with an eye to future hazards. He will serve while the university conducts a worldwide search for a permanent director. In a message to staff, Lerner-Lam said: “Mike Purdy’s leadership has made the observatory one of the leading intellectual enterprises at Columbia, and an icon among our peer institutions in the Earth Sciences.”