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UTAS newcomer awarded 2012 Edgeworth David Medal

Jo WhittakerCongratulations to Dr Jo Whittaker

UTAS is congratulating - and welcoming - Dr Jo Whittaker, who recently joined the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS).

Dr Whittaker, whose research focuses on plate tectonics and geodynamics, has been awarded the prestigious Edgeworth David Medal for 2013.

The medal is awarded for distinguished contributions by a young scientist for work done mainly in Australia or its territories, or contributing to the advancement of Australian science, in any scientific discipline.

It is presented by the Royal Society of New South Wales and is named after pioneering geologist and longstanding supporter of the Society, Sir Edgeworth David, who wrote the first comprehensive record of the geology of Australia.

In 2010, Dr Whittaker was also awarded the Australian Institute of Policy and Science NSW Tall Poppy award. She has an excellent peer-reviewed publication record, and has been invited to present at a number of Australian and international conferences.

“I did research on plate tectonic reconstructions between Australia and Antarctica a while ago which was published in Science.

“We showed there was a major change in the direction of the motion between the two plates, which correlates temporally with a more widely known plate tectonic reorganisation about 50 million years.

“For the first time we had evidence outside of the Pacific that this was happening on a more regional scale and speculated as to the cause of that.”

Dr Whittaker is pleased to receive the Edgeworth David Medal, which was first awarded in 1948, and is only the third geoscientist to have been awarded the medal.

Dr Whittaker almost didn’t go into the field of geoscience at all. Thinking she might want to be an accountant, she studied a combined degree in science and commerce at the University of Sydney. She later decided on Honours in Geophysics, putting accountancy firmly in the background, and followed this with a Masters in New Zealand.

“I saw an ad that said, ‘Do you want to go and to Antarctica and do a Masters’ and I said where do I sign?” she said.

“Things could have been very different- but no doubt they need accountants in Antarctica too.”

After a PhD and postdoc at the University of Sydney, with some industry work in between, Dr Whitaker came to UTAS, saying IMAS’ Director Mike Coffin was a drawcard.

“He is a well-known geophysicist and is definitely someone to work with in that field.”

The Medal will be officially presented to Dr Whitaker at a dinner in Sydney this April.

Image: Dr Jo Whittaker.

Published on: 15 Feb 2013 3:13pm