Iverson named newest departmental chairman in geology

Carly Mckinney

Dr. Neal Iverson, professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, has been named the Smith Family Foundation departmental chairman in geology at Iowa State.

The chairmanship was founded by Tom and Evonne Smith, alumni of Iowa State.

The chairmanship was first endowed at Iowa State in December 2008, when Carl Jacobson, professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, was named chairman.

Iverson replaced Jacobson as chairman of geological and atmospheric sciences on July 1. The position is only the second endowed departmental chairmanship at Iowa State.

Iverson graduated from Iowa State in 1983 and later earned his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 1989.

The endowed chairmanship is part of his job as the chairman of geological and atmospheric sciences. With his chairmanship and the input of the department faculty, he is granted the responsibility to decide how to spend the money donated by the Smith family.

“The position is a chairmanship, not an endowed chair,” Iverson said. “There is a difference.”

Rather than being a faculty member that is having his research endowed, the entire department is benefiting from the Smith family’s donations.

The money in the endowment has multiple uses including undergraduate scholarships to help “mitigate the costs” of rising tuition, Iverson said.

The endowment helps fund field trips taken by students and a summer field course required of geology majors, which entails a six-week trip to Wyoming.

Another use is to cover travel expenses of speakers from around the country, which Iverson said is beneficial for both students and faculty.

Faculty also benefit from the endowment for research assistance.

Dr. Kristie Franz, assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, is being aided in her research where she is working on the process of predicting floods.

The money also will “go to renovating the Stable Isotope Lab,” Iverson said.

The lab is a facility used by faculty and students for hands-on research.

Graduate students benefit from the program through fellowships, helping to keep their costs high.

“[The money] is being used at all levels of the program to strengthen it,” Iverson said.

The number of majors in Iowa State’s geology department has continued to climb, and Iverson stressed that there are plenty of jobs in the field.

Dana Caudle, sophomore in geology, said the field trips funded by the endowment are very useful.

“I like [the field trips],” Caudle said. “It’s a very visual, good way to see what we’ll be working with in the future.”

She has taken trips with the department to Ledges State Park in Boone and to a quarry filled with fossils.

Caudle said she is “insanely excited” about the summer field course in Wyoming, where she will be studying geologic structures.

She has heard positive discussion about Iverson taking over the position as the departmental chairman in geology, and she can’t wait to see the department grow more than it already has.