USA: Scripps Oceanographer Receives One of Highest Honors in Science


Bill Young, a professor of physical oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, received one of the highest honors in science May 1, being named to the National Academy of Sciences.

Thirty years after his first stint at Scripps as a postdoctoral researcher, he joins 13 other living Scripps researchers to receive the honor.

Young’s research is on geophysical fluid dynamics and dynamical oceanography. Young has recently been working on the generation of ocean surface waves and atmospheric water vapor distributions. He is associated with the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) and the Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography Division at Scripps.

Young said he was surprised at the news when he found out, adding he ignored the advice of older and wiser colleagues to take the day off and savor it.

“It feels a little bit unreal,” he said. “It’s a great honor and recognition.”

Born in Brisbane, Australia, he received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics in 1977 and a M.Sc. in applied mathematics in 1978, both from the Australian National University. He received a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 1981. He came to Scripps in 1982 as a postdoctoral researcher, then returned to MIT in 1984 as an assistant professor. He returned to Scripps in 1988.

The La Jolla resident is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Meteorological Society. He received the University Medal in Theoretical Physics from the Australian National University in 1976, the Carl-Gustav Rossby Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982 and, in 1989, AGU’s James B. MacElwane Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist. He served as the Oceans and Atmosphere section head at Scripps from 2007 to 2011.

“He has done so many things in his unassuming way that have changed the field,” said oceanographer Bruce Cornuelle, who is the current Oceans and Atmosphere section head at Scripps. “It’s wonderful that his colleagues worked to recognize someone who doesn’t market himself or his ideas. He richly deserves this honor, and is a role model for the true spirit of scientific inquiry.”

He has served as associate editor of the Journal of Marine Research, the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Fluid Dynamics Research.

The NAS is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research founded in 1863. The society provides advice and study of specific science issues for the benefit of federal policymakers and the public.

The other UC San Diego researchers elected to the academy were Roberto Malinow, a professor in the department of neuroscience, and Ruth Williams, Charles Lee Powell Distinguished Professor, department of mathematics. In addition, Scripps Oceanography alumnus Richard Carlson was also elected. A geochemist at Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington D.C., he received a B.A. in chemistry and Earth science from UC San Diego in 1976 and a Ph.D. in Earth science, from Scripps in 1980.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,400, and annual expenditures of approximately $170 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates robotic networks, and one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 415,000 visitors each year.

Subsea World News Staff, May 8, 2012; Image: Scripps