Jercinovic Honored with Microanalysis Society Presidential Science Award

Michael Jercinovic
Michael Jercinovic

Associate professor Michael J. Jercinovic, geosciences, recently was named the 2016 recipient of the Microanalysis Society Presidential Science Award, which honors a senior scientist for “outstanding technical contributions to the field of microanalysis over a sustained period of time.” He will receive the award at a plenary session of the Microscopy and Microanalysis 2016 meeting in Columbus, Ohio, on July 25.

In his congratulatory letter to Jercinovic, society president Thomas Kelly wrote, “Your pioneering efforts in geochronology with electron microprobe have been both excellent and sustained for many years. As a society, we want you to know that we have noticed and that we are appreciative. On behalf of all microanalysts, I thank you. We are pleased to offer this humble recognition of your achievements.”

Jercinovic is director of the UMass Geosciences Electron Microprobe/Scanning Electron Microscope facility. His general research interest is on electron probe micro-analyzer (EPMA) in minor and trace element applications, useful in such diverse fields as tectonics, igneous and metamorphic petrology, meteoritics, chemical engineering, and climate science.

In congratulating Jercinovic on this award, Julie Brigham-Grette, head of the department, says, “It’s fitting that Mike should receive this top honor in microanalytics because he is the master of the UltraChron Microprobe.”

Jercinovic says, “This really is an extraordinary and unexpected honor. Given the stature and accomplishments of previous awardees, it is quite humbling, and I must say that I am very fortunate to have worked with some exceptional colleagues who deserve a great deal of the credit.”

A major specific focus for Jercinovic and the microscopy facility has been in potential application of EPMA toward geochronologic problems associated with complex tectonic histories. In collaboration with his geosciences colleague Michael Williams, Jercinovic has provided the impetus for significant instrumentation and technique development, and has motivated the NSF-sponsored development of the one-of-a-kind Cameca SX-Ultrachron to explore high spatial resolution analysis at high sensitivity.

Jercinovic says, “Among the many remarkable frontiers in geological research today are those that involve gaining insight into fundamental Earth processes such as the construction and evolution of continents. Understanding the details of these processes influences our understanding of the development and evolution of life, resources and crustal processes and planetary tectonics in general.  Such research involves sleuthing out the histories locked inside ancient rocks, which are recorded in the minerals that compose them.”

He adds that electron probe micro-analysis is used in this characterization process. This technique provides compositional information at very high spatial resolution and allows researcjers to assess and quantify the reaction histories from which the physical/chemical processes of formation can be ascertained, that is, the geologic history.

“Among the newest applications, and what we have concentrated on here, is to use the electron probe to establish the age of minerals within rocks and, most importantly, to link the growth of these minerals to specific events in Earth’s history. This is a revolutionary approach that is expanding our understanding of the timing and duration of large scale events, such as the assembly of the North American continent,” he notes. To accomplish such investigations, new and more capable hardware and software are being developed that expand the basic techniques of electron probe micro-analysis into new territory.

Jercinovic received his Ph.D. in geology from the University of New Mexico in 1988. He was first introduced to electron probe micro-analysis at its Institute of Meteoritics by Klaus Keil, who encouraged him to pursue a career in geochemistry and microanalysis. After post doctoral work, Jercinovic directed the MIT electron microprobe facility for several years where he continued to refine his analytical methods. After briefly working on microelectronic evaluation in the private sector, he returned to academia when he became research faculty member at UMass Amherst in 1997.