Katherine Haines Freeman, professor of geosciences, Penn State, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences for her excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.
Members of the National Academy, sometimes called "advisors to the nation," are charged with providing independent, objective advice on matters related to science and technology. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, the NAS was established in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln and is dedicated to furthering science and technology for the good of the nation. Freeman joins 83 others elected this year, making the total NAS membership 2,179 U.S. and 437 foreign members.
Like a paleontologist, Freeman uses fossil biomolecules -- biomarkers -- and the stable isotopes of carbon and other elements to study ancient oceans, soils and lakes. She has used lipid and pigment biomarkers from algae, plants and microbes to study the links between water and carbon cycles and changes in climate over Earth's history. Her work shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide is high during periods of warm climate, plant ecosystems rapidly shift with changes in rain patterns and that global oxygen levels in the ocean impact and are impacted by microbial communities.
Freeman joined Penn State in 1991 as an assistant professor of geosciences and became an associate professor in 1997. In 2002, she was named professor of geosciences. She was associate head of geosciences from 2004 to 2009, and from 2003 to 2007, she directed the Penn State Biogeochemistry Research Initiative in Education, a National Science Foundation graduate training program. In 1997 she received the Peter Schenck Award from the European Association of Organic Geochemists, in 1999, the James Lee Wilson Medal in Sedimentology from the Society for Sedimentary Geology and, in 2012, she received the Science Innovation Award from the European Association of Geochemistry.
She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, American Academy of Microbiology, Geochemical Society and European Association of Geochemistry, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Freeman has written more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and mentored over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.