Holly J. Stein
The 2020 Robert Wilhelm Bunsen Medal is awarded to Holly J. Stein in recognition of her pioneering development of the rhenium-osmium geochronometer and remarkable array of applications of Re-Os geochemistry.
Holly Stein’s research includes the development of groundbreaking new geochemical tools and their application to a wide array of problems, and she is currently one of the most influential scientists in the field of geochronology and geochemistry. Her research, which initially involved molybdenite, established protocols for reliable, accurate and reproducible geochronological analysis that are used worldwide to this day. Applications of these methods have changed our understanding of ore deposit genesis across many deposit types and also found innovative applications in metamorphic petrology and tectonics.
Stein’s later work evaluated other sulfide minerals, such as arsenopyrite and pyrite, as Re-Os geochronometers and successfully applied these to solve problems of ore genesis and timing globally. The development of pyrite Re-Os geochronology allowed her research to enter the realm of sedimentary geochemistry and geochronology, marked by a landmark 2004 Nature paper “Dating the Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen”. This work opened the door for the second major revolution of Re-Os geochronology, providing robust geochronology from sedimentary rocks, a long-sought goal in the geosciences.
Stein’s research using Re-Os isotopes in both organic-rich shales and sedimentary pyrite has provided remarkable new age resolution for understanding sedimentary and paleoclimatic processes as diverse as oceanic anoxia, organic matter recycling and timescale calibration. Her most recent focus is the use of Re-Os isotopes in petroleum systems, and already she has made discoveries of very high impact, such as the Re-Os behavior of individual organic complexes within oil, and the ability to analyse and date oils by internal organic molecule analysis.
Holly Stein’s enormous energy, curiosity, determination and enthusiasm combined with vast knowledge and scientific creativity make her an ideal recipient of the Robert Wilhelm Bunsen Medal.