For Immediate Release — Friday, March 31, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

Professor of planetary geoscience to deliver third annual American Rock Salt Lecture on Geology at SUNY Geneseo

GENESEO, N.Y. — A planetary geoscientist "drawn to rocks falling from the heavens rather than to those already underfoot" and who has authored several hundred articles about how the solar system formed, will deliver the third annual American Rock Salt Lecture on Geology at the State University of New York at Geneseo on April 12.

Harry Y. "Hap" McSween Jr., professor of planetary geoscience at the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville and co-investigator of several NASA spacecraft missions, will deliver a talk titled "Discoveries of the Mars Exploration Rovers." The talk will be at 7:30 p.m. in Room 202 in Newton Hall. It is free and open to the public.

A University Distinguished Professor of Science, McSween will talk about the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, which have been operating on Mars for more than two years, much longer than their designed lifetimes. He will discuss the amazing discoveries of these rovers, including the implications for the possibility of early Martian life.

McSween focuses his work on the petrology and cosmochemistry of meteorites and their implications for understanding how the solar system formed. He has spent the past 25 years conducting NASA-funded research on meteorites. His research focuses on chondrites, the most common type of meteorites falling to Earth, and on SNC meteorites, which are thought to be igneous rocks from Mars. He also is involved in devising computer models of the thermal evolution of asteroids, so scientists can have a geologic context for measurable properties—peak metamorphic temperatures, cooling rates and chronology—in meteorites.

McSween has participated in NASA spacecraft missions since 1997, when he became a member of the science team for Mars Pathfinder, and then later for the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. He currently serves as co-investigator for the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which is presently mapping the mineralogy of the Martian surface from orbit; the Mars Exploration Rovers, which have been operating on the Martian surface since early 2004; and for the Dawn asteroid orbiter, which is in development. He also is the proud namesake for asteroid 5223 McSween.

He is involved in the following NASA-funded projects: petrology and geochemistry of Martian meteorites, petrology and geochemistry of chondritic meteorites, asteroid thermal history and remote sensing, and spacecraft missions.

A member of the UT faculty for 27 years, he served as head of the geological sciences department for 10 years. He has served as president of the Meteoritical Society, chair of the Planetary Division of the Geological Society of America and councilor of the Geological Society of America. He also is a member of numerous advisory committees for NASA and the National Research Council. He is author of "Geochemistry: Pathways and Processes," "Stardust to Planets: A Geological Tour of the Solar System," "Fanfare for Earth: The Origin of Our Planet and Life" and "Meteorites and Their Parent Planets."

McSween received his bachelor's in chemistry from The Citadel, his master's in geology from the University of Georgia and his Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University.

American Rock Salt and Geneseo's department of geological sciences formed a partnership in 2003, and the first American Rock Salt lecture was held in the spring of 2004. This important educational partnership is a model program that offers a mutually beneficial relationship between the company and the college. As a result of the partnership, Geneseo students intern at American Rock Salt and tour the expansive mine; the company provides support for undergraduate research; and company executives and other experts deliver talks on campus, including the annual American Rock Salt lecture.

For more information on McSween's visit, contact Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences Amy Sheldon by phone at (585) 245-5291, or by e-mail at McSween can be contacted by phone at (865) 974-9805, or by e-mail at