Perron appointed to named chair; Bosak receives Fundamental Science Investigator Award

Taylor Perron has been named a Cecil and Ida Green Professor, one of six professorships generously endowed by the late Cecil and Ida Green.

Perron studies geomorphology, the ways in which landscapes form and evolve. Using a combination of theory and numerical modeling along with field and remote sensing observations, his team investigates the role that geology and climate play in shaping landscapes, both on Earth and on other planets. He joined the MIT faculty in 2009, and in that time his team has tackled multiple interdisciplinary projects, including: developing models showing how erosional processes create river systems; mapping out landscape histories of Mars and Titan; the relationship between landscape and biodiversity in freshwater systems in Appalachia and in the Amazon; and how landscape evolution has influenced human history through migration and farming. His trailblazing research earned him a MacArthur fellowship in 2021.

Perron also served as the EAPS Associate Department Head from 2018 to 2021, during which time he oversaw the department’s educational program, including the development and quality of the curriculum and fieldwork program, teaching, general exam process and admissions. In this role he also served on the Steering Committee of the EAPS 2023 Taskforce. Prior to that he also spent time advising first-year students and served on both the MIT Faculty Committee on Student Life and the MIT Faculty Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement.

Tanja Bosak has received the Fundamental Science Investigator Award, the second recipient since its inception in 2017. The award was created with the generous support of John S. Reed ’61, SM ’65, who served as Chairman of the MIT corporation from 2010 to 2014. He is also a former CEO and chairman of Citigroup and former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. The award provides five years of funding to support innovative research with the potential to advance the frontiers of basic science.

Bosak, a geobiologist, studies the evolution of microbial life in low-oxygen environments typical for the early Earth and how the biosphere has evolved and interacted with the chemical makeup of Earth’s surface by producing organic carbon and biogenic gases or catalyzing mineral formation and dissolution. Her research program integrates molecular biology, biochemistry, and earth sciences to lead a new wave of geobiology focused on the role of microbes in co-evolving systems.

She is also a co-lead on the Returned Sample Science team of the Mars 2020 mission, which is preparing and analyzing samples collected by the Perseverance rover on Mars taken from the Jezero crater that will be returned to Earth. As co-lead, her duties include outlining mission strategies and coordinating the different groups involved with the project.

Bosak has a PhD in Geobiology from the California Institute of Technology. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard before joining the MIT faculty in 2007 and served as the Chair of the Program in Geology, Geobiology and Geochemistry until summer 2022. She was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2021.