Tonie Van Dam has been awarded the 2019 Vening Meinesz medal by the European Geosciences Union for her work in geodesy
Photo: European Geosciences Union (EGU)/Pfluegl
The University of Luxembourg’s Tonie Van Dam has been awarded the 2019 Vening Meinesz medal by the European Geosciences Union for her work in geodesy, a field which uses mathematics to deal with Earth’s geometric shape.
In her work, Van Dam--whom the EGU calls “a world leader” in her field--uses space geodetic observation techniques to better understand Earth deformations.
Van Dam is the current vice rector for doctoral education and training, gender and international relations at the University of Luxembourg. She has also played a pivotal role in launching the university’s interdisciplinary space master programme, which begins this autumn 2019 and combines business and space studies.
The EGU hailed Van Dam’s work, calling her 2001 paper, titled “Crustal displacements due to continental water loading”, “a classic in geodesy” and further called her a “world leader in modelling geodetic observations”--appropriate, given that she was the first to develop a model to exemplify how data can be distorted if Earth’s fluctuations are strong enough. Her research has also led to further insights on the impacts of climate change, e.g., ice mass shrinkage in Greenland.
“You can imagine the earth like an elastic rubber ball. If you apply pressure at a certain point, it slightly deforms,” Van Dam explained in a university communiqué. “When you study the earth’s shape, for example plate tectonics, and you ignore those fluctuations, you are introducing errors.”
Van Dam also received the grand prize in geological sciences from the Luxembourg’s Institut Grand-ducal in 2017 for her pioneering work.