Utah State University geoscientist Alexis Ault is among a select cohort of U.S. scientists named a 2023 Kavli Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences. As an honoree, Ault attended the Japanese-American-German Frontiers of Science Symposium from Oct. 5-8 in Dresden, Germany.
Ault is one of 118 honorees selected as a 2023 Kavli Fellow. The awards program recognizes outstanding young scientists from academia, government and industry, aged 45 or younger, and brings them together to foster new ideas at the forefront of science as well as interdisciplinary collaboration.
“This is well-deserved recognition for Alexis and a distinct honor for Utah State University,” says Joel Pederson, head of USU’s Department of Geosciences. “Alexis may be the first person from our university recognized with this commendation.”
Ault says she was “stunned” upon receiving news of the honor.
“I am humbled to be selected as a Kavli Fellow, and grateful for the opportunity to connect with fellow honorees,” says Ault, associate professor in USU’s Department of Geosciences. “Presenting with scientists from a spectrum of disciplines was a remarkable experience.”
At the Dresden symposium, Ault presented her research on shallow fault damage along the southern San Andreas Fault in California and its implications for future earthquakes. A 2017 recipient of a prestigious five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development “CAREER” Award, Ault and her research group leverage earthquake geology and fault rock thermochronometry to document the spectrum of fault slip behavior during the earthquake cycle.
Ault, a 2018 recipient of the International Charles and Nancy Naeser Early Career Award in Thermochronology, has shared her science extensively among her peers, as well as in public outreach to science enthusiasts of all ages. But presenting at the Kavli symposium, she says, was “unlike anything I’ve ever participated in.”
“The symposium extended beyond the Earth sciences, providing me the opportunity to interact with scientists from such diverse disciplines as astrophysics, machine learning, materials science, animal linguistics and quantum mechanics,” Ault says. “It challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and push beyond disciplinary boundaries.”
Sharing research with others, Ault says she forged collaborations with scientists she might never have encountered within her own professional networks.
“For example, I met a materials scientist, who shared her research and information about tools that will inform my research,” she says. “From a biologist, I learned how diminished sea ice is affecting communication among whales. From a data scientist, I received important insights about advances in machine learning. All of these encounters and conversations revealed new insights for me, as a geoscientist, that have implications for how I’ll move forward with my own research and communication of my group’s science.”
Ault says the symposium series, one of three this year, is intended to create an ongoing network of research connections that the Kavli Fellows can maintain as their careers advance.
“The intent, as the name ‘Frontiers of Science’ implies, is to catalyze groundbreaking research, to foster clarity, and to drive science forward,” she says. “I’m excited to be part of this movement, and to share what I’m learning here at Utah State.”
Ault is a featured speaker in the USU College of Science’s 2023-24 Science Unwrapped public outreach series. She presents “Energy Transformations: Earthquakes and Hot Rocks” on 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2024, in the Eccles Science Learning Center on USU’s Logan campus.
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