Professor Birner Receives Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities


Dr. Susan BirnerDr. Suzanne Birner, assistant professor at Berea College, was awarded the Ralph Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). Dr. Birner competed with 167 applicants, many from R1 institutions (doctoral universities with the highest level of research activity). The $5,000 grant award is matched by each applicant’s institution.

Birner, who teaches geology, earth science and chemistry, says she studies the “rocks from the Earth’s upper mantle that are exposed along tectonic plate boundaries running through the planet’s oceans, in order to gain insight into the composition and character of the Earth’s interior.”

“This grant will allow me to investigate a unique suite of such rocks, from an area along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, that exposes a myriad of mantle rock types,” Birner said. “I hope to correlate thermodynamic data with previously determined chemical constraints in order to determine why the mantle varies widely on relatively small spatial scales, and what effect this has for volcanic eruptions of magma derived from this deep mantle material.”

Along with furthering her research with the grant Birner hopes to recruit one to three students to accompany her in research this summer. She plans to use the grant to purchase equipment and technology to better develop analyses completed at Berea.

“I am extremely grateful to ORAU and the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement award for giving me the opportunity to carry out this research at Berea College and to include Berea students in the project,” Birner said upon receiving the award. “As we work to reinstate the geology program after its long hiatus, I hope this research project helps to inspire students’ curiosity about the vast and fascinating world beneath our feet.”

Berea College President Lyle Roelofs thanked the ORAU in presenting Birner with this award.

“We are most grateful for this recognition of and support for a very talented young scientist with an impressive future,” Roelofs said.

Categories: News, People
Tags: Award, faculty, geology

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.