In memoriam: Robert Lowell, research professor in the Department of Geosciences
June 28, 2019
Robert Lowell, a research professor in the Department of Geosciences, has died. He was 76.
Lowell joined the Virginia Tech College of Science in 2006 after a long tenure at Georgia Tech, where he was on faculty from 1971 to 2005. He was a “world-class expert” in seafloor hydrothermal systems, with a special focus in the associated fluxes of mass and heat, and magma chamber evolution, according to Steve Holbrook, head of the Department of Geosciences. Lowell also researched volcano-hydrothermal processes in both terrestrial and planetary environments.
During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Lowell received more than $1.5 million in research grants and advised seven graduate students and mentored 10 undergraduates in research. Research by Lowell was supported by the National Science Foundation for nearly 40 years.
Lowell had scores of publications in such journals as Earth Systems and Environmental Science; Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems; and Oceanography; and was co-editor of the 2008 textbook, “Magma to Microbe: Modeling Hydrothermal Processes at Oceanic Spreading Centers.”
He had earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Loyola University in Chicago in 1965, and a master’s in physics and doctoral degree in geophysics from Oregon State University in 1967 and 1972, respectively.
“Bob Lowell and I met and began collaborating shortly after his arrival at Virginia Tech,” said Bob Bodnar, the C.C. Garvin Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Geosciences and a University Distinguished Professor. “Both of us work on hydrothermal systems, but Bob was a geophysicist who focused on submarine hydrothermal systems, and I am a geochemist who focuses on continental hydrothermal systems. These differing approaches to studying similar processes taking place in different environments led to a successful and productive collaboration that benefited our students as well as others who participated in our discussions and classes.”
Bodnar added that he and Lowell co-taught a course on hydrothermal processes, served on each others’ graduate student committees, and co-authored several papers. “Bob Lowell’s many contributions to the Department of Geosciences and his strong support and mentoring of graduate students will be missed,” Bodnar added. “And, I will miss our regular racquetball games where we had a chance to discuss research as well as other nonacademic matters while hitting the ball off the walls and each other."
A service for Lowell was held on Saturday, June 29, at Unity of Roanoke Valley, 3300 Green Ridge Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24019.