August 2016 Commencement

The University of Memphis awarded 667 degrees at its summer Commencement Saturday, August 6, at 10:00 am at FedExForum. The total included 52 doctoral degrees.

The featured speaker was Dr. Roy B. Van Arsdale, professor of geology in the Department of Earth Sciences and recipient of the 2016 Willard R. Sparks Eminent Faculty Award. Van Arsdale has been involved in earthquake-related research at the UofM for 23 years. One of the principal goals of his research has been to assess seismic threats, in particular the New Madrid seismic zone of northwestern Tennessee and the surrounding region.

In one study, Van Arsdale excavated trenches across the Reelfoot fault and documented a 500-year recurrence interval for large earthquakes on the fault that has subsequently been accepted as the New Madrid seismic zone earthquake recurrence interval. Seismic reflection studies and spatial distribution of earthquakes have allowed him and his students to model the subsurface structure of the Reelfoot fault system and how its movement caused regional uplift like the Reelfoot Lake basin. Understanding the subsurface geometry of fault systems helps determine what areas will topographically rise, which will sink, and where the Mississippi River levees may fail during future earthquakes.

Van Arsdale has received funding for his research from the National Science Foundation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and United States Geological Survey. He has participated in two nationally televised programs that focus on the New Madrid seismic zone: one produced by the History Channel and the second by the National Geographic Society.