The 2016 Stephan Mueller Medal is awarded to Renée Heilbronner for outstanding research on the analysis of rock microstructures and textures and the quantification of rock deformation.
Renée Heilbronner is an outstanding and internationally leading scientist in the field of rock physics and Earth deformation. She has distinguished herself by bringing extraordinary clarity and insightful perspective into the analysis of microstructures found in naturally and experimentally deformed rocks. She pioneered a very original approach based on image analysis applied to rock deformation that forms the foundation for much of our current understanding of the influence of grain boundary structure on natural deformation. The methods that Heilbronner developed have a tremendous impact on advancing our understanding of the strong link between microstructures and rock rheological properties. Her work has numerous applications that cover the whole set of rock deformation mechanisms, from fracture analysis to quantification of diffusion and dislocation creep, and the whole range of objects that characterise deformation, from grain boundary geometry to crystallographic preferred orientations, including the reconstruction of the evolution of such structures with time. Characteristically, her work uses stereological and statistical methods that were and are at the cutting edge of image analysis. Her application of rigorous image analysis techniques has advanced our understanding of strain partitioning amongst component minerals, the effect of phase chemistry on deformation, and the production of amorphous materials during frictional sliding. Heilbronner has educated a generation of students, equipped with an arsenal of analytical tools, many offered as freeware, from grain size characterisation to fabric quantification. She also educated many senior researchers with her excellent short courses. In 2014, she published a book on microstructures and textures of Earth materials, which is a seminal work for geoscientists interested in investigating processes in fields ranging from metamorphic petrology, to sedimentology and deformation analysis. For these reasons, she is a worthy recipient of the EGU 2016 Stephan Mueller Medal.