The Clarke award honours a young scientist for a single scientific contribution or -alternatively - for a series of papers on a scientific topic. The latter applies remarkably well to Blair Schoene, since he is recognized to be a multitalented, polyvalent scientist with skills that span a wide range of theoretical, numerical and analytical aspects.
Blair Schoene did his undergraduate studies at Colorado College in Colorado Springs before moving to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge) in 1999 where he got his PhD degree in 2006 under the supervision of Sam Bowring. After a short stay as visiting assistant professor back at Colorado College, he moved to Switzerland where he carried out post-doctoral research at University of Geneva in Switzerland. In 2009 he left Geneva to take over an assistant professor position at Princeton University.
His main contribution to geochemistry and geochronology is his longstanding involvement in the systematic aspects of U-Pb geochronology, where he contributed significantly to pushing the limits of precision and accuracy. His contribution was instrumental for the development of numerical solutions for correct propagation of random and systematic uncertainties into U-Pb dates, for the production of new tracer and calibration solutions that lead to drastically decreased interlaboratory biases, and in the development of chemical proxies that help the accurate and precise interpretation of high-precision U-Pb dates of zircon.
These fundamental contributions were backed by solid geological studies that span a wide range: during his PhD at M.I.T. Blair was deciphering the timing of Archean tectonics in the Kapvaal Craton (South Africa). He then changed his scientific focus during his post-doctoral research at the University of Geneva; he proposed temporally resolved models for the evolution of magma chambers, using the Adamello batholith in northern Italy as a case study, and established high-precision chronologies of volcanism, climate change and environmental disturbance in the past, especially for the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. Since his appointment as an assistant professor at Princeton University in 2009, he opened a new laboratory for high-precision U-Pb geochronology and continues his research with great success, on the questions of melt accretion in the crust as well as tackling very general questions of chemical evolution of the Earth's crust over the last four billion years.
Blair Schoene does not only have an impressive scientific record and activity, he is also an extraordinary colleague and friend. He is gifted with a genuine curiosity, which leads him to profound scientific reflection without losing his pragmatic and efficient approach to answer the imminent questions. He demonstrates an impressive ability for adapting to new environments and challenges; just to mention that he was capable of teaching some undergraduate classes in French after only 18 months of post-doctoral stay in Geneva. And last, but not least, Blair Schoene has other important projects in his life, he has two wonderful children together with his spouse Colby.
Blair Schoene is truly an exceptional young scientist who has had a remarkable impact in earth and isotope sciences after only 7 years of having obtained his PhD. He richly deserves the recognition to obtain the F.W. Clarke Award 2013.
By Urs Schaltegger
Citation for Blair Schoene, 2013 F.W. Clarke Medalist
Presented at the 2013 Goldschmidt Conference in Florence, Italy