Carnegie Museum of Natural History awards University of Arizona geosciences professor

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The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) has announced Robert T. Downs as winner of the 2023 Carnegie Mineralogical Award. Downs is professor emeritus in the department of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

The award honors outstanding contributions in mineralogical preservation, conservation and education. 

Over the course of his career, Downs has taught thousands of students, published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and co-authored three books.  

“In his long career, Bob has influenced countless students and people from all walks of life through his lectures and publications, and as one of his supporters best put it, his influence on the mineralogy community is unique, lasting and profound,“ said Travis Olds, assistant curator of minerals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 

Olds presented the award to Downs on February 10 at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Downs developed and continues to curate the RRUFF mineralogical database, one of the most widely used open-access mineral databases in the world, which has fundamentally changed how mineralogical data is kept and shared.

The Raman spectra, X-ray diffraction and chemistry data within RRUFF help mineral researchers identify specimens on Earth and beyond.

Downs was a principal investigator on the Mars rover Curiosity, part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. In 2023, he was second author on a paper in JGR Planets that summarizes a survey of 161 probable or confirmed Martian minerals and suggests that mineral diversity on Mars is an order of magnitude less than on Earth.

Downs also prioritized making mineral education accessible to the public. He led the development of the popular, new University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum in Tucson. 

Carnegie Museum of Natural History established the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, funded by the Hillman Foundation, in 1987.
Nominations are now being accepted for the 2024 Carnegie Mineralogical Award, and the deadline is November 15, 2024. Eligible candidates include educators, private mineral enthusiasts and collectors, curators, museums, mineral clubs and societies, mineral symposiums, universities and publications.

For more information, contact Travis Olds at [email protected].