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Siobhan (Sasha) Alexandra Wilson

Sasha obtained her B.Sc. (Hons) in physics from McMaster University in 2003 and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in environmental geochemistry from The University of British Columbia in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Sasha held a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Indiana University node of the Astrobiology Institute from 2010 to 2011. She has been a faculty member at Monash University since 2011. She received the 2016 E.S. Hills Medal from the Geological Society of Australia for her contributions to geochemistry.

Sasha leads the Environmental Geochemistry Experimental Laboratory at Monash University. Her team’s applied work focuses on tailoring element cycles for carbon, metal and metalloid sequestration within minerals in geoengineered landscapes, mining environments and mineral processing circuits. On the fundamental side, her group is developing the use of alteration minerals in meteorites and fossils for (palaeo) environmental reconstruction, working to understand the role of gas mineral reactions in sedimentary systems, and elucidating the relative roles of microbial metabolism and organic geochemistry in organomineralisation.

Since her graduate work, Sasha has elucidated the rates and processes at play during accelerated weathering of mine tailings and their role in fixating atmospheric CO2. Her work with us at UBC and others at the University of Queensland on the topic of carbon mineralization in mine tailings has led to a re-examination of the manner in which mine wastes are managed.

As a postdoctoral fellow, Sasha investigated the environmental behaviour of hygroscopic minerals relevant to the search for life on Mars to determine whether microbes can harness the H2O sorption behaviour of minerals to scavenge bioavailable water and nutrients in some of the harshest environments in the solar system.

Most recently, in collaboration with Andy Tomkins (Monash) and Gordon Southam (UQ), she has discovered that chondritic meteorites, which are amongst the best-studied and most chemically and isotopically homogeneous rocks in the solar system, weather to produce an assemblage of hydrated minerals that exhibit similar hygroscopic properties.

These examples serve to illustrate the novel and diverse research interests that Sasha has developed in the past decade. At the core of each of these studies is a recognition of the important role that minerals play in shaping earth processes and facilitating the development of life, and search thereof, on other planets.

In her short career to date, Dr. Sasha Wilson has established an international reputation for cross disciplinary studies and novel experimentation in environmental mineralogy and geochemistry, contributions deserving of the 2017 MAC Young Scientists Medal.

Greg Dipple and Mati Raudsepp

“The Mineralogical Association of Canada is the first scientific society that I joined. I was fortunate to receive an undergraduate student award from the MAC in 2003, which included the gift of a membership to the association. This recognition sparked my imagination and led me to pursue a career in geochemistry. In the years since then, the MAC helped to support my graduate research, and more recently the work of my Ph.D. students through its scholarship programs. The MAC has always felt like my home society, so it is with great pleasure and gratitude that I accept the Young Scientist Award today. I would also like to thank the MAC for its gracious definition of ‘young’ (looking back at photographs from the society’s website, I m not quite as ginger as I used to be!).

Every award for individual achievement is really recognition of group effort. I d like to thank my parents, David and Irene, and my brother, Misha, for their support. I owe much of my success to my parents. They not only permitted me to pick apart the world around me, and to fill the house with rocks, bugs, plants, rabbits, bacterial cultures& they genuinely encouraged me in my budding scientific efforts.

Science, as with any creative endeavour, is a delight when you’re fortunate to build ideas with great people. And I’ve been extremely fortunate in this regard. I’ve had excellent and generous mentors, Greg Dipple, Gordon Southam, Mati Raudsepp and Dave Bish in particular. It’s not possible to thank everyone deserving of thanks in a short speech. However, I would like to pay particular thanks to Ian Power, Bree Morgan, Andy Tomkins, Simon Jowitt, Anna Harrison, Shaun Barker, Helen Brand, and again to Greg and Gord  thank you for being fantastic collaborators and wonderful friends. It’s sincerely a pleasure to work with you.

Sandy Cruden, my head of school at Monash, gave me some sage advice in my first year as a faculty member. He advised me to only take on graduate students and postdocs who are smarter than me. So, thank you to all of my students and postdocs, past and present, in particular: Alastair Tait, Bree Morgan, Connor Turvey, Jenine McCutcheon and Jessica Hamilton. You’re wonderful colleagues and you make me look much more clever than I am!

Finally, I’d like to extend my thanks to Mati and Greg for nominating me for this award. It feels rather like I’ve come full circle in all the best ways standing here today.

Thank you.”