Professor awarded Paleontological Society Medal

UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf has been awarded the 2012 Paleontological Society Medal. The society's most prestigious honor, the award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the field of paleontology.
A professor in the department of Earth and space sciences, Schopf has revealed a vast ancient fossil record that has led to a comprehensive understanding of life’s ancient history, from the formation of the Earth 4.6 billion years ago to evolutionary events such as the earliest living organism, the development of the atmosphere and oceans, and the patterns of cell division and sexual reproduction.
Schopf joined the faculty in 1968 at the age of 26. In 1977, he received the National Science Board's Alan T. Waterman Award as the outstanding young scientist in the nation. In 1999, he recounted his discoveries in the book "Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils" (Princeton University Press), which earned the 2000 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science for outstanding contributions to the literature of science.
More recently, Schopf became the first scientist to use two innovative techniques — confocal laser scanning microscopy and Raman spectroscopy — to look at microscopic fossils inside ancient rocks to search for organic cell walls and other signs of life without destroying the rocks or their tiny, entombed fossils. He and his colleagues have used these tools to produce 3-D images of ancient fossils 650 million to 3,500 million years old. Their research has opened the door to using these techniques to explore whether life ever existed on Mars and other planets.
Schopf’s father, the late James M. Schopf, was also awarded the Paleontological Society Medal, in 1978, while a professor of paleobotany at Ohio State University. They are the first father and son to have earned this distinction. University of California faculty have won more of these medals than faculty at any other institution. Schopf is the sixth UCLA professor to win the medal, most recently Professor Bruce Runnegar of earth and space sciences, who received the award in 2010.
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