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Ross Powell

Ross Powell

With such a distinguished legacy of studying climate change during nearly four decades at NIU, it can be difficult figuring out where to begin telling Geology and Environmental Geosciences Professor Ross Powell’s story.

One place to start could be Antarctica in the mid-1970s when, as a graduate student participating in geological research, he worked alongside peers from NIU. Powell, known internationally for his efforts in the area of global climate change, agrees that was something of a “small world” moment given he’s been synonymous with NIU since 1980.

In that time, Powell has made a direct impact on the careers of countless students who have taken his courses and been part of his research teams. He’s also been a force in the climate change community as a proponent of high-profile, multi-million dollar projects; the author of a multitude of academic and scientific papers; and as a key reason NIU receives worldwide attention for climate fieldwork and analysis.

The depth and substance of Powell’s resume once again earned him recognition with an NIU Board of Trustees Professorship. He previously received the honor in 2010.

“I really have appreciated the amount of support the university has given me over the years,” Powell said. “Receiving the top award for any professor, I’m honored to get it.”

Powell’s colleagues credit him with being ahead of the curve in his focus on the geologic records of glaciers and their sensitivity to climate change. And, while he’s stepped foot on every continent to lecture or present research findings, Powell never lost his connection to the community by, among other things, participating in NIU’s STEMfest and STEM café and giving talks at schools throughout the region.

Powell considers it all a testament to the high-quality status of NIU, its students and the faculty in the academic and scientific worlds.

“It certainly shows the development of the university as a research-level university in the state of Illinois,” he said.

And, according to Powell, students benefit from the “win-win” situation of having accomplished professors guide them on high-level research projects – especially on an international scale.

“Who’s not going to get excited as a student to get a trip to Norway or the Antarctic?” Powell said, referring to his research sites.