Richard Foa Katz
The 2012 Division Outstanding Young Scientist Award is awarded to Richard Foa Katz for his outstanding contributions to the understanding of the mechanics of Earth’s fluid-solid systems.
Richard Katz’s research interests have concentrated on the dynamics of two-phase systems with particular application to the generation and migration of magma. He has made significant contributions to the field through the integration of large-scale computation, analytical theory, and laboratory fluid dynamics experiments. The problems of two-phase flow applied to the migration of magma, in which the two phases react with one another, is formidably difficult. Katz’s 2008 paper in the Journal of Petrology is the first to establish a mathematic framework for modeling both the mechanical and chemical behaviour of the system at tectonic scale.
He has an exceptional ability to formulate and solve geodynamical problems with great clarity but, perhaps unusually, he also couples his theoretical work closely to observations of the natural world. His paper with Marc Spiegelman and Ben Holtzman on the migration of melt under shear was not only a technical tour-de-force, but also an imaginative combination of theory and experiment that will have a lasting influence on how we view partially molten systems. Katz’s recent work on mid-ocean ridges has demonstrated the surprising result that asymmetry which is observed across ridge axes can arise naturally as a result of porosity-driven convection. His work with Philip England on subduction zone arcs has provided a compelling physical model to explain the fundamental observation of how the arcs geometrically relate to the underlying seismicity. This work again powerfully brings together analytical scalings, computational work and detailed observations to optimise understanding. Katz’s interests are by no means limited to magmatic problems; his curiosity is driven by many aspects of the Earth System, as his recent work on the stability of ice-sheet grounding lines shows.