Sean Solomon, Director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, to Step Down

June 13, 2019

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

We write to share the news that Sean Solomon, William B. Ransford Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, will be stepping down as Director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) this coming academic year.  

Sean was appointed Director of LDEO in 2012. Sean is, as so many of you know, an eminently respected geophysicist who has contributed mightily to our understanding of Earth and other planets, perhaps most notably as principal investigator of NASA’s MESSENGER mission, which sent the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. For this, and so many other truly remarkable accomplishments, Sean has received numerous accolades, including the National Medal of Science.

We are fortunate that Sean chose to make Columbia and the Earth Institute his home during these last seven years. As Director, Sean has led more than 200 scientists, over 80 graduate students supporting research, and the staff who sustain the day-to-day needs of LDEO to help further its mission: to seek fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution, and future of the natural world. Under Sean’s leadership, Lamont scientists developed five major interdisciplinary research initiatives to guide new strategic priorities: Climate and Life, Real-Time Earth, Extreme Weather and Climate, Changing Ice and Changing Coastlines, and Earthquakes and Faulting. These efforts re-organized the spectacular research occurring at LDEO in a way that underscores the vital importance of the Earth sciences to humanity. Sean has also worked to hire and retain the best in their fields to pursue this research, and he has been a fierce advocate for LDEO and the Earth Institute.  

Sean’s leadership leaves the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at the top of its field and poised to maintain that position. Please join us in thanking him for his steadfast commitment to LDEO and to the Earth Institute. We will soon begin a search for a successor, and Sean will remain in place until that person is appointed. In the meantime, we look forward to many opportunities to celebrate his contributions to our community, and to the world of science.  


Lee C. Bollinger

Alex N. Halliday
Director, Earth Institute