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UD prof blazes trail for minorities in science

Xiao-Hai Yan, Mary A. S. Lighthipe Professor of Marine Studies (Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson)

2:01 p.m., Sept. 20, 2006--For the second consecutive year, Xiao-Hai Yan, Mary A. S. Lighthipe Professor of Marine Studies at the University of Delaware, has been named a “trailblazer” for minorities in science by the editors of Science Spectrum magazine. Yan is one of only a few scientists to receive the honor more than once.

The Baltimore-based magazine, published by Career Communications Group Inc., annually recognizes “outstanding Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, and black professionals in the science arena whose leadership and innovative thinking on the job and in the community extend throughout and beyond their industry.”

Yan is among 70 Science Spectrum Trailblazers who were honored at a luncheon during the Minorities in Research Science Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center on Sept. 16. His fellow awardees included Warren Washington, chairman of the National Science Board; Shirley Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Nils Diaz, chairperson of the U.S. Regulatory Commission; and many other distinguished scientists, from space plasma physicists, to presidents of high-tech companies.

“I am thrilled to present and honor the scientific field's brightest stars,” Tyrone D. Taborn, editor-in-chief of Science Spectrum and chief executive officer of Career Communications Group Inc., said.

“Clearly, if we are to bring on a new cohort of science talent, we must begin by recognizing and applauding those multicultural communities who have excelled,” he added.

Prof. Yan was invited to an April 20 ceremony and reception hosted by President George W. Bush at the White House to honor visiting Chinese President Hu.
As co-director of the UD Center for Remote Sensing, Yan has pioneered new techniques for processing satellite data that enable scientists to monitor ocean phenomena ranging from El Niņo, the weathermaker that is spawned by the heating up of a huge pool of warm water in the western Pacific Ocean, to “blooms” of harmful algae such as brown tide that can threaten shellfisheries and bay grasses.

Recently, he led a research team from the University of Delaware, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Ocean University of China that developed a method to detect super-salty, submerged eddies called "Meddies" that occur in the Atlantic Ocean off Spain and Portugal at depths of more than a half mile. These warm, deep-water whirlpools, part of the ocean's complex circulatory system, help drive the ocean currents that moderate Earth's climate. The research marked the first time scientists have been able to detect phenomena so deep in the ocean from satellites miles above the Earth--and by using a technique that can track changes in the salinity of ocean water.

Born in Shanghai, China, Yan earned his bachelor's degree equivalent at Tong Chi University and his master's degree equivalent from Shanghai Institute of Technology and Physics. After completing his doctorate in satellite and physical oceanography from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he pursued postdoctoral research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. He joined the UD faculty in 1990.

Among his previous honors, Yan received the Presidential Faculty Fellow Award from the president of the United States in 1994, and the honorary Cheung Kong Chaired Professorship from the Ocean University of China in 2000.

In 2004, the University of Delaware named Yan the Mary A. S. Lighthipe Professor of Marine Studies for his “notable record as a scholar and educator” and for his service to the University.

Article by Tracey Bryant

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