University of Pittsburgh
October 19, 2009

Pitt in Brief News, Awards, and Developments From the University of Pittsburgh

Pitt-led team digs in Icelandic volcanoes for clues to Martian terrain, Earth's past and future climate Pitt associate vice chancellor appointed to Pennsylvania Bio board of directors
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH- Behind the larger stories about the University of Pittsburgh are other stories of faculty, staff, and student achievement as well as information on Pitt programs reaching new levels of success. The following is this week's compilation of some of those stories.

Pitt-led team digs in Icelandic volcanoes for clues to Martian terrain, Earth's past and future climate

A three-year project led by the University of Pittsburgh will tap a volcanic mountain range in central Iceland for clues about how the Martian surface formed as well as the past and the future of our own planet's climate. Ian Skilling, a volcanology professor in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, recently received $304,000 from the National Science Foundation to investigate the historic interplay between volcanoes and glaciers preserved in the frozen desolation of the Dyngjufjöll (Din-gyu-fyotl) mountains. Skilling will collaborate with colleagues from the University of Iceland, the United Kingdom's Open University, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

The team plans to collect data for constructing a model that illustrates the interaction between large volcanoes and overlying ice sheets by analyzing the textures, chemical composition, and age of rocks at Dyngjufjöll. Their results could reveal new information about past ice ages. Volcanoes that erupt underneath ice capture evidence of the ice's presence and thickness. Because it has been blanketed by at least 16 glaciers in the past 2.5 million years, central Iceland likely contains among the most comprehensive records of Northern Atlantic land ice, Skilling explained. This largely unexplored chronicle would be invaluable for depicting Earth's bygone climate and, thus, helping model future climate change.

Additionally, the Dyngjufjöll range is similar to many of Mars' very large volcanoes, Skilling said. The Red Planet has several large, very long-lived caldera volcanoes-which have expansive open pits caused by large eruptions-that for most of the planet's history would have erupted through and interacted with thick layers of water ice. Dyngjufjöll and other caldera volcanoes provide the best Earth-based models for studying the formation of this important part of the Martian surface, Skilling said. For more information, contact Pitt News Representative Morgan Kelly at 412-624-4356 (office); 412-897-1400 (cell);

Pitt vice chancellor appointed to Pennsylvania Bio board of directors

Marc Malandro, Pitt's associate vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization, has been appointed to the board of directors of Pennsylvania Bio, the statewide association representing Pennsylvania's biosciences community.

Malandro also has served as director of Pitt's Office of Technology Management (OTM) as well as a technology licensing manager for OTM. Prior to joining Pitt, he cofounded Sagres Discovery, a functional biology company focused on the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. Malandro earned his PhD degree in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Florida College of Medicine and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Human Molecular Genetics at Case Western Reserve University.

Senior officials with Pennsylvania Bio noted that Malandro is an exceptional leader who will bring great scientific and commercialization expertise to the organization's board. "I am so pleased that as our board grows, we continue to reflect the great diversity of the industry throughout the Commonwealth," said Pennsylvania Bio President Dennis M. Flynn. "I think it would be difficult to find anywhere else a more talented group of leaders than we have at the helm of Pennsylvania Bio."

Pennsylvania Bio is a catalyst to ensure Pennsylvania is a global leader in biosciences by developing a cohesive community that unites the region's biotechnology, pharmaceutical, research, and financial strengths. For more information, contact Pitt Associate Director of News John Fedele at 412-624-4148 (office); 412-225-6384 (cell);