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Dean Lucy Flesch

Dean Lucy Flesch standing in front of the Block P sculpture.

Lucy Flesch, Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science

Since September 1, 2023, Lucy Flesch has served as the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science.  Prior to this appointment, she held the role of senior associate dean for faculty affairs since 2018. Flesch’s faculty appointment is in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences where she began as an assistant professor in 2005. She was subsequently promoted to associate professor in 2011, and to a full professor in 2016, which made her the first woman promoted to full professor in the department. Before to coming to Purdue, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and has continued her affiliation as a Visiting Scientist since 2005.

Dean Flesch’s research interests are in geophysics and geodynamics. From the time she was in high school and first saw applications of mathematics, she has had an interest in physics. Her undergraduate degree clarified that her particular appreciation of physics was not as much about particles, but more about the things you could “climb on and stand on” - the kind problems in addressed by geophysics. In graduate school, understanding the stresses causing mountain building and earthquakes led Flesch to studying the kinematics and dynamics of the continental lithosphere using inverse numerical modeling constrained by new sets of geodetic data. In her work she explored the interaction between the lithospheric crust and mantle, deformational driving forces within continental lithosphere, and the causes for the development of large plateaus. With her student, Dr. Emily Finzel, Flesch made the first observation of a continental region experiencing earthquakes and surface motion as the result of convection and motions of deeper Earth.  Additionally, with her student Dr. Sarah Bischoff, she demonstrated through geodynamic modeling that when the lower crust of the Tibetan Plateau becomes thick and warm, it will flow “like toothpaste.” Further, she found that “because it will move faster than the upper crust, the upper crust responds by buckling and producing uplift and subsidence consistent with observed paleo topographic data that results in extension in the regions of observed normal faulting in Tibet.”

Lucy Flesch “standing on” the Erla Pass in Tibet.
Lucy Flesch “standing on” the Erla Pass in Tibet.

Flesch is the 2022 recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s 2022 Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service for her leadership as Chair of UNAVCO board of directors. During this time she led the organization’s negotiations of its merger with IRIS, another National Science Foundation-funded major seismology research organization, into a single organization - the EarthScope Consortium - which is regarded to have had great impact in the global geophysics research community. Flesch was selected to be a 2017 ELATE at Drexel University Fellow for the development of academic leadership in STEM fields. Her university service and teaching have also been recognized by her multiple leadership and teaching awards from Purdue University.

Flesch was elected in 2016 to the Board of Directors of UNAVCO, a non-profit membership-governed consortium that facilitates geoscience research using geodesy, and also served as Chair in 2019. Since 2018, Flesch has been an Editor of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union. Flesch is an active peer reviewer for NSF proposals. Additionally, she performs peer reviews for numerous journals, including Nature, Geology, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Journal International, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, Journal of Geodesy, Geological Society of London, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, and Tectonophysics.

Dean Flesch received her PhD from Stony Brook University with a dissertation on the dynamics of active plate margins. She also holds a master’s degree from Stony Brook, and a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science. Flesch is an active runner, having completed several marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and numerous half marathons. She is a regular swimmer also, and enjoys playing tennis and skiing. She believes that vigorous exercise helps give her balance so that she can give her full focus and energy to her professional work.

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