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Scientist, professor earns international honor

By Indiana Geological and Water Survey

October 04, 2021

Maria Mastalerz, a research geologist for the Indiana Geological and Water Survey and adjunct professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has been awarded the Reinhardt Thiessen Medal from the International Committee for Coal and Organic Petrology — the highest honor given in her field.

“Over the years, Dr. Mastalerz has demonstrated outstanding professionalism and extraordinary contributions to organic petrology,” her nominators wrote. “She has cemented her reputation as a top expert organic petrologist, sought out by colleagues around the world for collaboration and viewpoint. Moreover, through her teaching and guidance of students she is helping to perpetuate the practice of organic petrology.”

Organic petrology is the study of organic matter in sedimentary rocks. A senior scientist at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey since 1994, Mastalerz has principally focused on fossil fuels for most of her career. As an international authority in the field, she attracts attention to the Indiana Geological and Water Survey and IU from scientists around the world, said longtime research partner Agnieszka Drobniak. In addition to the United States, Mastalerz’s research and teaching have taken her to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and her native Poland.

In recent years, Mastalerz and Drobniak have introduced their research methods to study biomass and bioenergy.

“Renewable energy sources — these are the things that will be important in the future,” Mastalerz said.

Mastalerz received the medal in Prague at the annual International Committee for Coal and Organic Petrology’s meeting Sept. 23. At that conference, Mastalerz’s and Drobniak’s team, which includes other Polish scientists, delivered a presentation on “Quality Testing of Grilling Fuels: An application for reflected light microscopy.”

About the IGWS

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey is a research institute of Indiana University that receives support, in part, from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. Its mission is to provide geologic information and counsel that contribute to the wise stewardship of the energy, mineral and water resources of the state. Since 1837, the health, safety and welfare of Indiana’s citizenry have benefited through research initiatives and cooperative investigations with governmental agencies, businesses, industries and educational organizations; geologic sample and data collection and archiving; and dissemination of information, including maps, reports, databases and educational programs.