July 28, 2000

Hamilton Names Akasofu to Lead IARC

July 28, 2000 NR 19-2000

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, the founding director of the International Arctic Research Center at UAF, today was named permanent director by University of Alaska President Mark R. Hamilton.

Akasofu is an award-winning scientist known throughout the world for his pioneering research of the Aurora Borealis. Prior to his IARC appointment in late 1998, Akasofu had served as director of the Geophysical Institute since 1986, and his leadership of the institute helped establish UAF as a global leader in arctic research.

Hamilton's selection of Akasofu followed an international search process in which six finalists from the scientific community were interviewed in Fairbanks earlier this year.

In addition to Akasofu, the other finalists were Michael Dagg, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium; Craig Dorman, chief scientist for the Office of Naval Research Science and Technology Program; John Eichelberger, professor of volcanology at UAF and nine-year coordinating scientist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory; Motoyoshi Ikeda, program director for IARC within the Frontier Research System for Global Change in Japan; and Peter Wilkniss who established the private consulting firm Polar Kybernetes International, LLC, in Fairbanks in 1997.

Akasofu came to Alaska in 1958 after receiving his bachelor and master's degrees from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. He received his Ph.D. in geophysics from UAF in 1961. He became director of the Geophysical Institute in 1986, four decades after the institute was created by Act of Congress. Since its creation, the institute has earned an international reputation for studying the earth and its physical environment at high latitudes, and for training students in related disciplines.

Under Dr. Akasofu's leadership, the institute saw a rapid increase in basic research and research-supported activities due in large part to the opening of the Alaska Synthetic Aperture Radar Facility, where images from international satellites captured and processed.

IARC brings together a collection of international scientists from various disciplines studying global change. U. S. and Japanese federal science agencies will also be located in IARC, which was built with a $20 million investment by the Japanese government. Fully occupied, the Center will accommodate about 100 leading environmental scientists from UAF, Japan and other countries for collaborative research activities.

The author of more than 400 professional journal articles focusing on global auroral phenomena, Akasofu has written or co-authored eight books and was the invited author of six encyclopedia articles on the subject. He joined the Geophysical Institute as a graduate student in 1958, earned his doctoral degree in 1961, and was promoted to full professor of geophysics in 1964.

In 1985, Akasofu was named the first professor to hold the Sydney Chapman Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences, a position created by a special act of the Alaska State Legislature. Dr. Sydney Chapman, considered one of the most distinguished geophysicists of the 20th century, was professor of geophysics and advisory scientific director of UAF's Geophysical Institute from 1951-70.

Akasofu has been awarded the Chapman Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society of London, the John Adams Fleming Medal by the American Geophysical Union, and the Japan Academy Award. He was chosen the UAF Distinguished Alumnus in 1980, named one of the 1,000 Most-Cited Contemporary Scientists in 1981, and elected the Centennial Alumnus by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges in 1987. Akasofu received the Japan Foreign Minister Award in 1993 and in 1997 received the $15,000 Bullock award for distinguished university service from the UA Foundation.

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, IARC, 907-474-6012
Debra Damron, UAF University Relations, 907-474-7122