Geological oceanography student recognized with URI award for doctoral excellence

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – June 5, 2015 — Maryjo Brounce, who earned a doctoral degree from the University of Rhode Island last December, was recognized by the URI Graduate School with its annual Excellence in Doctoral Research Award.


A native of Philadelphia, Brounce was honored for her dissertation, “A Geochemical Investigation of Oxygen Fugacity in the Marianas Subduction Factory.”


“My dissertation examines the volcanoes that erupt in subduction zones to understand if oxidized oceanic crust and seafloor sediments are recycled back to the surface environment in volcanic gases and lavas, and if they are, what impact this potentially has on the behavior of oxygen in the deep interior of Earth,” explained Brounce, who earned a bachelor’s degree in geosciences from the Pennsylvania State University in 2009.


In a letter to Brounce announcing her selection for the award, Keith Killingbeck, associate dean of the Graduate School at URI, wrote “You have had an impressive career at the University of Rhode Island, and we are pleased to be able to recognize your accomplishments. The award comes with a $1,000 check.


“Maryjo thinks quickly and intelligently on her feet, she never hesitates to ask questions, and she has a wonderful knack for getting to the heart of scientific problems both in conversation and in writing,” said Katherine Kelley, associate professor of oceanography and Brounce’s advisor. “She has produced a tremendously impressive body of work in her time at URI, and her investigations have revealed fundamentally new constraints on the first-order exchanges of oxygen between the Earth’s surface and interior. She is clearly a rising star in her field, and is poised to achieve great success in her future endeavors.”


This isn’t the first award Brounce received for her doctoral research. In 2013 she earned awards for the best student presentation and the outstanding student research paper in the field of tectonophysics at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the largest gathering of earth and space scientists in the world.


After earning her doctorate from URI, Brounce accepted a position as a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, where she is studying the sulfur chemistry of ocean crust from the mid-Atlantic ridge and the Hawaiian hotspot to better understand what can be learned about Earth’s deep interior from lavas at the surface.


Photo submitted by Maryjo Brounce