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Lynn Orr named interim dean of the School of Earth Sciences

STANFORD -- Professor Franklin "Lynn" M. Orr Jr. has been named interim dean of the School of Earth Sciences, Stanford University President Gerhard Casper and Provost Condoleezza Rice announced.

The appointment is effective Sept. 1, when W. Gary Ernst, the current dean, returns to teaching and research in the department of geological and environmental sciences.

A visiting committee of academic and industry advisers will be appointed next fall to review the school and its programs, and to make recommendations regarding future directions. Upon completion of its report, expected by the end of next fall, a search will be conducted for a permanent dean.

"Lynn Orr will provide excellent leadership to the School of Earth Sciences, which has my continuing support, and to its fund-raising campaign," Rice said. "He has an outstanding academic reputation and great support from the school faculty."

Ernst said that he applauded the provost's choice.

"Lynn Orr is a first-class scientist and engineer, and a university statesman," Ernst said. "He is highly knowledgeable concerning our role as academic departments and as a school in the university milieu."

Orr is the Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor of Petroleum Engineering and chair of the Department of Petroleum Engineering. An authority on fluid flow and phase behavior in porous oil-bearing formations, Orr has done key research in the development of processes for enhanced oil recovery. He has been named Distinguished Lecturer by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, currently chairs the scientific advisory committee of the Packard Foundation and has chaired a Gordon Research Conference.

Orr also has served on the senate of the Academic Council and chaired the faculty committee that supervised design and construction of the recently completed Green Earth Sciences Research Building.

In recent years, the Earth Sciences faculty combined the departments of applied earth sciences and geology into a new department of geological and environmental studies, and developed a new undergraduate Earth Systems program. This innovative program brings together faculty and students to study how the environment functions on global and regional scales; that is, the historical and current geological, biological and social processes on the planet. Reflecting new international initiatives, the school now offers an honors program in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy through the Institute for International Studies.

Orr said that in addition to supporting these initiatives, he expects continuous reexamination and innovation.

"We are always re-evaluating what we will do next," he said. "In planning the Green building, we joked that the only research that we knew for sure would not happen there was the research we were already doing."

Orr mentioned a major new collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an ion probe for isotope geochronology, and more collaborative work among the crustal fluids experts in all three Earth Sciences departments as well as civil engineering.

"There are major scientific questions, as well as societal problems, that can be addressed by understanding the performance of fluids in the earth's crust," he said.

"We will continue to attack wonderful research problems in an era of dwindling resources. This is not a problem unique to Stanford or to the earth sciences; it's really a national problem. We have talented folks who have found good support for their research in the past, and we know we can compete."

The planning for the new Green research building gives an example of Orr's leadership skills, said Professor Emeritus George Thompson, himself a former Earth Sciences dean. The result of work with architects and other faculty members is that a building on a difficult site, partly underground, is pleasing to all parties, Thompson said.

"In addition to looking good, it feels good to the people working in it," he said.

Orr "has the ability to pull people together and plan for the future," Thompson said. "The world is changing fast. Science, education and the earth sciences are changing fast. The key is to plan and not react, and Lynn will be good at that."



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