2008 Distinguished Alumnus - Kurt M. Cufffey (Click here for profile)

      Kurt M. Cuffey, State College Area High School class of 1988, received his B.Sc. degree in Earth Science from Penn State (1992) and his Ph.D. in Geosciences from The University of Washington (1999).

      Dr. Cuffey is dedicated to scientific scholarship and education, contributing significantly to the geophysical understanding of Earth’s climate, glaciers, and polar ice sheets.  He also participates in the public discourse on global environmental issues, especially climate change, through public lectures, media interviews, advice offered to governmental agencies, and reports for the National Research Council and various university academic programs.

      His primary academic goal has been to “improve understanding of Earth’s surface environment, how it operates as a system and changes through time, and how its characteristics arise from physical, chemical and biological processes.”  He has spent months in Antarctica using high-resolution GPS receivers to measure ice-flow rates plus humidity and wind velocities, and then, using this data, he developed numerical models to interpret past climate changes and predict future ones. 

      Dr. Cuffey was appointed to a professorship at The University of California-Berkeley in 1999 and was appointed Dept. of Geography chairman in 2007.  In 2003, he was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, which also presented him with the prestigious James B. MacElwane Award.  This medal “recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist (less than 36 years of age).” 

            For his work in the field of glaciology, Popular Science magazine named him as one of 2004’s “Brilliant Ten,” a list of ten young scientists gaining recognition in their fields, while remaining virtually unknown to the general public. The magazine stated, “Cuffey is helping to reframe the debate about global warming and the speed at which it can happen.  His research reveals an Earth where ice sheets can melt more – raising sea levels faster – than anyone previously imagined.”