Colorado State University Geologist Receives Prestigious International Award

Colorado State University scientist Holly Stein received the prestigious Helmholtz-Humboldt Research Award for her groundbreaking scientific research in ore deposit geology and geochemistry.

Stein is the director of the AIRIE Program, Applied Isotope Research for Industry and the Environment, in the Department of Geosciences. AIRIE is a leading institution in producing state-of-the art developmental and analytical work in Re-Os (rhenium-osmium) chronology. Re-Os dating allows scientists to better understand how metallic ore deposits form and their temporal relationship to regional geologic, metamorphic and tectonic processes.

In particular, AIRIE developed the technology to date the mineral molybdenite, well known to Coloradans through the Climax and Henderson mines. This relatively modest mineral occurs globally. Dating this mineral by Re-Os has unleashed a wealth of age information that reveals the primary histories of many otherwise complex rocks. The mineral industry now seeks this technology to aid exploration for new ore deposits.

The AIRIE Program recently acquired the expertise to date hydrocarbons, so that the source of oil and the time that the oil migrated into distant geologic traps can aid petroleum exploration. This work is backed by $2.3 million from the Norwegian petroleum industry and the Norwegian Research Council.

The Helmholtz Association and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation jointly grant up to six research awards annually to internationally recognized scientists for their research achievements to date. The award categories cover all disciplines of science including energy, earth and environment, health, technology, structure of matter, transport and space.

Nominations for the award are made by members of the Helmholtz Association National Research Center in Germany. Awardees are scientists whose discoveries, theories and findings have a strong influence on the immediate and broader disciplines over and beyond their specific research area.

As part of the award, Stein will receive a 50,000 Euro – or about $70,000 – prize presented by the president of Germany in a formal reception in Berlin. She will also have a formal affiliation with the GeoForschungsZentrum and the University of Potsdam, and she will be an invited speaker at other universities throughout Germany.

In addition to her expertise in ore deposit geology and geochemistry, Stein has been active in several geologic societies and editorial boards. She received the 2005 Silver Medal from the Society of Economic Geologists for excellence and original work in the geology of mineral deposits. In 2000, she received a Fulbright Research Fellowship. She received a Gilbert Fellowship from the U.S. Geological Survey in 1992-1993 to develop the Re-Os dating tool, a means of determining the age of samples on the geologic time scale. In 1992, Stein received the Outstanding Woman Alumna Award at Western Illinois University.

Stein has been a senior research scientist in the Department of Geosciences at Colorado State since March 1998. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University, Stein obtained her master’s of science degree and doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to her research work, Stein is an accomplished cellist and soprano. She also enjoys writing poetry.