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09/07/2000 07:00:00

Packard Foundation Gives Caltech $1 Million

PASADENA—In order to further a better understanding of Earth's history, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Science Program has awarded the California Institute of Technology a $1 million grant.

This funding will help scientists investigate how microorganisms and Earth's near-surface environments have interacted over billions of years. The project, led by Dianne Newman, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Geobiology and Environmental Engineering Science at Caltech, will bring together investigators from a wide range of disciplines that do not traditionally overlap. They will work on a well-defined problem in the new discipline of geobiology.

The project, "The Geobiology of Anaerobic Fe(II) Oxidation: Biological, Geochemical, and Field Studies," integrates molecular microbiology with geochemistry and field geology. These scientists will try to identify chemical signatures of early life in the geologic record.

"We believe that the potential for discoveries that could come from any of the individual components alone is extraordinary, and we think that this is just the kind of challenge that the Packard Foundation had in mind when it conceived the interdisciplinary project program," said Caltech president David Baltimore.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation was created in 1964 to support and encourage nonprofit organizations dependent on private funding and volunteer leadership. It awards grants in six main program areas: conservation; population; science, children, families, and communities; arts; and organizational effectiveness and philanthropy.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and a faculty of about 275 professorial members and 130 research members. The Institute has more than 19,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 2,100 on campus and 4,800 at JPL.

Over the years, 28 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni. Forty-five Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award. On the Caltech faculty there are 77 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 70 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 48 members of the National Academy of Engineering. ###

Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226

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Written by Jill Perry