Dr. Laike Mariam Asfaw
SEATTLE - A leading Ethiopian scientist has been honored with the prestigious American Geophysical Union (AGU) award for his outstanding contributions for the advancement of Earth and Space sciences.
Chief of the Addis Ababa Geophysical Observatory (AAO) of Addis Ababa University , Dr. Laike Mariam Asfaw received the AGU Award at the 2008 Joint Assembly Honors Ceremony held on 29 May 2008 in Fort Lauderdale , Fla.
Laike, who as a 1968 math graduate of Addis Ababa University went on to earn his Ph.D. in Continum Mechanics from the University of Liverpool in 1975 became head of the Geophysical Observatory three years later in 1978. The first president of Ethiopian Association of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering (1992-1994), Dr. Laike has particpated in numerous research and workshops around the world.
Sharing his joy with the media, Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw, assistant research geophysicist at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics in Los Angeles , CA , said the award was a deserving recognition of the outstanding contribution Dr. Laike made over several years. The young scientist Endawoke was a student of Laike at Arat Kilo Faculty of Science in Addis Ababa in the '90s.
Kathryn A. Whaler, University of Edinburgh , on her part said "Laike is a wonderful ambassador for his science and his country, and it is fitting to bestow AGU’s new international award on him in the AAO’s fiftieth-anniversar y year."
News of the award also attracted those scientists who had known Dr. Laike for considerable period of time.
"I know Dr. Laike for a long time, beginning when I was a summer intern in 1987, and also when I was working on my masters thesis at the AAU Geophysical Observatory, " says Dr. Alemayehu Jemberie, a seismologist with the Impact Forcasting LLC in Chicago , IL . "Dr Laike deserves more than the AGU Award for what he has been doing to that country and the Geophysical community."
Following is the AGU press release:
Laike Mariam Asfaw became the director of the Addis Ababa Geophysical Observatory (AAO) at Addis Ababa University , Ethiopia , in 1978. His quiet calm and dedication have ensured a continuous, high-quality data stream throughout the often politically turbulent period since. He is also deeply involved in the geophysical education of his country’s science students, understanding, awarenessraising, and advising on its seismic and related hazards, and the promotion of its science on the international stage.
The AAO was founded in the International Geophysical Year (IGY) as a geomagnetic observatory, still one of the few in Africa . Originally using paper records, hourly mean data have been produced since the observatory’s inception; minute mean values have been available since 2000. It is now an International Real-Time Magnetic Observatory Network ( INTERMAGNET) observatory, indicating that it adheres to the highest standards of operation and, through satellite communication, provides data in near real time. Seismometer installation took place in 1959 and was upgraded with digital equipment in 1997.
The AAO now also manages the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) broadband and other shortperiod digital seismic stations in Ethiopia , and is an auxiliary Comprehensive Nuclear- Test-Ban Treaty Organization station.
A continuously running GPS receiver has recently augmented the instrument base, and AAO is an International Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Service station. The observatory’s development and expansion and commitment of overseas funds would not have happened without Laike’s leadership. He also ensures that AAO staff and students are actively involved in research based on the observatory’s data.
Laike’s numerous major committee memberships have included the International Association for Seismology and Physics of the Earth’s Interior committee for developing countries, the International Association for Geodesy (IAG) working group on the application of geodetic studies for earthquake prediction, the working group on verification technology for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty, and the International Union for Geodesy and Geophysics/ IAG working group on dynamic isostasy.
The Ethiopian rift and Afar regions are unique in showcasing the late stages of continental breakup above sea level, so the AAO hosts a constant stream of overseas visitors seeking advice and support. Laike was Ethiopian project leader for the Ethiopia Afar Geoscientific Lithospheric Experiment involving some 80 Ethiopian and overseas scientists, including practically every geophysicist in Ethiopia - well educated and enthusiastic, thanks to Laike and his team.
Ethiopia ’s Afar region remains in the grip of a seismovolcanic crisis, at the start of which a new 60- kilometer-long, 6-meterwide magmatic segment opened up involving the injection of vast quantities of material into the crust. Laike has been advising both the national and regional governments, at presidential level, on the associated hazard. At the time of this writing, the seismometers have just recorded yet another earthquake swarm followed by a dyking event.
Laike’s vision and enthusiasm continue unabated. He recently successfully proposed the expansion and transformation of the AAO into an Institute of Geophysics , Space Science and Astronomy, incorporating other units within the university’s science faculty to form an interdisciplinary center.
I am expecting Laike to respond to this citation with his usual modesty, suggesting his colleagues should take the credit. Don’t be fooled—he has been the long-term driving force behind AAO’s success. His colleagues and many Western scientists were enthusiastic supporters of the nomination leading to this award, commenting on his ability to help acquire the highest- quality data, and his selfless commitment to furthering the careers of his younger colleagues. It is an honor to present someone who embodies and has put into practice AGU’s motto in such challenging circumstances over the past 30 years.