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Section Header
UA hydrologist earns distinguished award

By Ian Musil
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday March 31, 2003

Tucked away in his office high in the Harshbarger building, a Czechoslovakian immigrant works feverishly to keep the Arizona environment safe. Last month, he finally received recognition for his work.

Dr. Shlomo Neuman was named last month as the 2003 Horton Medallist by The American Geophysics Union. The award is presented for a lifetime of outstanding contribution in the field geophysics.

"This recognition reflects things we've known for a long time," said Vic Baker, head of the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, who insists Neuman has been an international expert in subterranean hydrology for many years.
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His reputation is one of the main reasons our program is ranked No. 1 in the country.

- Vic Baker
Hydrology and Water Resources Department Head

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Baker sat on the committee that awards the Horton Medal and said the process is quite competitive.

"To win a Horton Metal you have to do the equivalent of walking on water in the field of hydrogeology," says Baker.

Established in 1974, the Horton Metal has been awarded only 19 times. Recipients include some of the most illustrious names in hydrology. Baker points out that although it is great to receive recognition, Neuman is distinguished without the medal.

"His reputation is one of the main reasons our program is ranked No. 1 in the country," Baker said.

Hydrology and Water Resources is the only department at the UA to consistently receive a top ranking from U.S. News and World Report. Neuman's department leads Stanford, Harvard and Penn. State in the U.S. News graduate school rankings.

"We've been ranked No. 1, consistently, for the last five years, at least," Neuman said. He said he wished

the high profile ranking would attract more undergraduate students to his department.

Undergraduate enrollment in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources is the lowest it's been in 30 years. Neuman is disappointed by the declining interest in water sciences and hopes administrators will keep the undergraduate program afloat under Focused Excellence.

Many of Neuman's students praise his program and say he is one of the main reasons they came to the UA.

"He has a wonderful way of breaking down a complex subject into its simplest parts. He makes difficult concepts manageable," says Eric Morales, a doctorate student in the department of Hydrology and Water Resources.

"He never makes me feel silly about asking a stupid question," says Ayelet Blattstein, a graduate student. "And besides that, he is a really great person, outside academia."

Now, Neuman is working closely with nuclear waste specialists in Canada and the U.S. to clean up the environment. He said he's seen nuclear energy programs stall recently because there is nowhere to store power plants' nuclear waste. Neuman was initially excited about plans to store nuclear waste in rock, deep beneath the earth's surface, but said now he's hesitant and closely examines such plans to ensure they pose no public risk. He is working to solve the problem with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Neuman also holds an honorary professorship from the University of Nanjing in China.

"Any hydrologist in China knows [Neuman] for his accomplishments," said Ming Ye, a former student of Neuman conducting post-doctoral research at UA.

Professor Peter Wierenga, director at the Water Resources Center, insists the Horton Medallist's international acclaim is due in part to his positive attitude.

"I have the highest regards for him," Wierenga said. "He's very intelligent and he interacts wonderfully with his students."

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