Jim Evans Awarded Utah State University's Highest Research Recognition
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014
Geology professor Dr. James “Jim” Evans has been named Utah State University’s 2014 recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
“Jim’s unwavering dedication to both his research and students encompasses the spirit and essence of USU’s highest research honor — that is the natural ability to inspire others to excel,” said USU President Stan Albrecht. “Everything that he does and everything that he is, derives directly from his selfless desire for his students to be successful.”
Evans’ research focuses on structural geology, the analysis of the three-dimensional distribution of Earth’s outer layers and how they deform in response to stress, specifically the influence of faults and fractures on subsurface fluid flow.
“The research of Jim Evans is extraordinarily valuable to USU because it addresses scientific and societal issues vital to both environmental and economic concerns, and because Jim designs projects which include students in this research at every level,” said geology professor John W. Shervais. “Jim’s research is the embodiment of the land-grant mission of providing educational outreach and practical education, while at the same time, leading his field in innovative and internationally regarded research.”
Currently, Evans’ work centers on the analyses of fault-related rocks and fault zones, CO2 sequestration and rock fracture in sandstones. Evans said his work isn’t limited to specific characteristics or attributes.
“We go from a very large scale — the scale of a mountain range — to a very small scale,” Evans said. “I study something the size of the Bear River Mountain Range down to something that you can only see with a high-powered microscope. It’s an incredibly wide range of distances.”
The variability within his discipline is an element of intrigue for Evans.
“We like to look at things that happen over huge scales of time,” Evans said. “We look at earthquakes and meteorites, which are things that happen in a mere number of seconds, but we also look at other processes that take hundreds of thousands of years — many of which took place millions of years ago. We get to work on this huge scale of time and space extrapolated from today to the far distant past.”
Evans’ early research centered on the internal structure of faults and helped to explain the process of rock deformation during earthquakes. This work is among his most cited research.
Since then Evans has produced over 60 peer-reviewed articles — with more than 3,900 citations — and has generated nearly $4M in research funding at USU.
A fellow of the Geological Society of America, Evans was selected as the associate editor and then executive editor of international peer-reviewed Journal of Structural Geology. He is also the founding co-editor of international peer-reviewed journal Lithosphere.
Just last year, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists selected Evans as the 2013 AAPG Foundation’s Professional Awardee for his exceptional leadership within the field of geoscience instruction.
In addition to his internationally renowned research, Evans is noted for the tremendous level of commitment he devotes to students and their research.
One of Evans’ projects involved investigating samples from the SAFOD (San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth) deep drilling project, taken from the active trace of the fault 3 kilometers below the surface. Evans worked with doctoral candidates, master’s students and undergraduates on the research, and they were able to publish several articles with him.
“Jim directly includes students as part of his research efforts, challenging them to reach beyond their limits,” Shervais said.
Professor and head of the Department of Geology W. David Liddell said students consistently identify Evans, who was also USU’s 2010 Graduate Mentor of the Year, as the most respected advisor in their department.
“He funds his students’ research projects, but more importantly, he provides them with encouragement and unlimited quantities of time,” Liddell said. “He never declines a request to chair a promotion or search committee. Dr. Evans is obviously a very busy person yet he manages to give unselfishly of his time to his students and his department.”
Having mentored more than 50 graduate and undergraduate researchers, Evans said it’s gratifying to keep in contact with colleagues after they graduate and as they go on to excel in their own careers and research.
“The students are what keep me energized,” Evans said. “It’s not about my becoming successful; it’s about their success. Their growth is the real award. It’s the reason I do this stuff.”
“The world of geology is still reaping the benefits of and directly applying Dr. Evans’ invaluable findings today,” said Mark McLellan, vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies at USU. “Inevitably, his work has not only brought recognition to himself and his abilities, but has, in turn, shone a light on Utah State University as an innovative research institution.”
Evans will be honored at USU’s Research Gala Monday, April 7, at the Riverwoods Conference Center. The gala is part of the tenth annual Research Week, with five days of events highlighting USU’s best faculty, graduate, and undergraduate researchers. More information can be found at the Research Week website (http://researchweek.usu.edu/2014/).
Named after USU’s first vice president for research, the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award is given to an individual on the USU campus who has completed outstanding research in his or her career. The award is given annually to one outstanding university researcher who is recommended by a committee of peers and all previous award recipients. Nominees are evaluated for the significance and quality of their research and creative achievement, as well as recognition by national and international experts.
Contact: Mark McLellan, USU vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies, 435-797-1180, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Brooke Larsen-Leavitt, communications assistant, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, 801-615-3355, email@example.com