Jessica Tierney Named Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Integrative Science

May 2, 2022


Dr. Jessica Tierney is the recipient of the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Integrative Science at the University of Arizona.

Tierney is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences at UArizona and an internationally distinguished organic geochemist and paleoclimatologist, having already established herself as a world leader in both of these disciplines. She has made fundamental contributions to the development of new organic geochemical methods for interpreting the history of climate change. She has used organic geochemistry, together with other data and modeling approaches, to transform our understanding of Earth’s recent paleoclimate history, particularly in Africa and the Indian Ocean region.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to be named the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Integrative Science," Tierney said. "The Chair will enable my research group to explore exciting new projects studying past and future climate change, and will provide key support for students, postdocs, and my laboratory manager.”

Tierney has been at the University of Arizona since 2015. She earned a bachelor's, master's and a doctorate in geology from Brown University. She is a Packard Foundation Fellow, an American Geophysical Union Fellow and a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment report.

Tierney's body of research demonstrates that she has exceptional ability to identify ways of making important advances in some of the most pressing and hotly debated problems in paleoclimatology. Her work on such diverse topics as the relationship of tropical climates to high latitude forcing during the Pleistocene, the tempo of the African Humid Period, and the effects of anthropogenic climate warming on African lakes are lasting contributions to science (often with deep societal implications) and have established her as a preeminent leader in paleoclimatology.

"This endowed chair honors Thomas R. Brown, co-founder of the Burr-Brown Corporation, who demonstrated the power of science and engineering to advance humanity," said Dr. Carmala Garzione, College of Science Dean. "The endowment is designated to support a faculty member in the College of Science who is recognized among peers as preeminent in the field of climate change research."

Tierney has received several national and international awards including: the 2015 Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, which is awarded to "the nation’s most promising early-career scientists and engineers;" the 2015 Pieter Schenck Award from the European Association of Organic Geochemists, given "to a scientist normally under 35 years of age who has made a major contribution in any specific area of organic geochemistry or a related field," and the 2014 James B. Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union awarded to recognize "significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist."

"Dr. Tierney is an excellent representative for this endowed chair because her research is recognized as highly impactful in understanding what Earth's recent climate history tells us about modern and near future climate change," Dr. Garzione said. "In addition to her research excellence, Dr. Tierney is a tireless advocate for climate change mitigation and shares her message with the general public in a hopeful way that encourages everyone to be part of the solutions."

In May, Tierney will receive the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award. The award is the nation's highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers, and recognizes outstanding individual achievements in NSF-supported research. She is the first climatologist to win the award since Congress established it in 1975. She is also the first from UArizona to ever receive the honor.

“The Department of Geosciences is excited and proud to have Dr. Tierney as the Brown Chair," said Dr. Barbara Carrapa, Professor and Department Head of Geosciences at UArizona. "She has made important advances in some of the most pressing and hotly debated problems in paleoclimatology. Dr. Tierney’s outstanding and impactful science, and her contributions to solving global climate challenges through research, service and effective public engagement demonstrate her worthiness of this prestigious honor."

To learn more about the Thomas R. Brown Foundations, please click here.