OSU recognizes climate scientist, computer expert with Distinguished Professor awards


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Peter Clark and Margaret Burnett as its 2016 Distinguished Professor recipients, the highest academic honor the university can bestow on a faculty member.

“Both Peter Clark and Margaret Burnett are visionary scientists whose careers are affecting people all over the world,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president.

“The work of Dr. Clark is cutting-edge science that helps everyone better understand what climate change may mean to them, using the past as a powerful guide to help predict the future. And we live in a world where computers are pervasive, used by everyone from elementary school students to retirees. An expert in visual programming languages, Dr. Burnett has made those instruments more user-friendly, interactive and dependable for all people.”

Burnett, a professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, has been a pioneer in making computers more useful for everyone. As a leader in several gender diversity activities, including advancing STEM education, Burnett was awarded the 2015 undergraduate research mentoring award from the National Center for Women & IT.

She helped develop the entire field of “end user” software engineering, which allows millions more people to successfully produce computer programs that are dependable and of high quality. Burnett has also tackled the problem of a computer world in which software is often designed by men and fails to acknowledge the different ways in which men and women communicate and process information.

This field of “gender-inclusive” computer study is also critical in bringing more women into technology, a goal which Burnett has worked toward for decades. She is an award-winning mentor to graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

Burnett received her doctorate in computer science from the University of Kansas and has been at OSU since 1992.

Clark, a professor in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, is an international leader in the study of past climate change to help understand what the future may bring. He has had numerous studies published in the most prestigious academic journals in the world, such as Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Clark also was a lead coordinating author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With more than $4 million in research funding brought to OSU, Clark has studied glaciers and ice sheets, both those of today and from the distant past, to help determine what may be the long-term impacts of anthropogenic warming, rising greenhouse gases, and sea level rise. He’s also an award-winning teacher, recipient of 11 other major awards, has organized 20 symposia, and his professional work has generated literally thousands of citations.

Clark received his doctorate in geology from the University of Colorado and has been at OSU since 1988.

This honor will be permanent as long as the recipient remains at OSU. Both professors will give public lectures this spring on topics related to their field of study.

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About Oregon State University: OSU is one of only two U.S. universities designated a land-, sea-, space- and sun-grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification. Its more than 26,000 students come from all 50 states and more than 90 nations. OSU programs touch every county within Oregon, and its faculty teach and conduct research on issues of national and global importance.