Sean Solomon is an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where he served as Director from 2012 to 2020. Prior to coming to Columbia, Solomon held appointments from 1972 to 1992 as Assistant Professor to Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and from 1992 to 2011 as Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
In his research, Solomon has applied the tools of seismology and marine geophysics to address the formation and tectonic evolution of oceanic crust and lithosphere at mid-ocean ridges and transform faults, the nature and causes of intraplate stress, and the deep seismic structure of oceanic hotspots. Through a combination of spacecraft observations and theoretical analyses, he has sought to understand the internal structure and geophysical evolution of the solar system’s inner planets. A member of the science teams for the Magellan mission to Venus, the Mars Global Surveyor mission, and the GRAIL mission to the Moon, Solomon was the principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER mission, which sent the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and study the planet’s composition, geology, topography, gravity and magnetic fields, exosphere, magnetosphere, and heliospheric environment.
A former Hertz Fellow, Sloan Research Fellow, and Guggenheim Fellow, Solomon was President of the American Geophysical Union from 1996 to 1998. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the International Academy of Astronautics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America. He is a recipient of the G. K. Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America, the Arthur L. Day Prize from the National Academy of Sciences, the Public Service Medal from NASA, the Harry H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the California Institute of Technology. In 2014 he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama.