Colloquium: David Black, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Pepin Memorial Lecture
Professor Pepin, a longtime member of the faculty of the School of the Physics and Astronomy, passed away on January 6, 2023 I will be speaking to honor and recognize the many contributions that Professor Robert Pepin made to our lives: as students, fellow staff members, and members of society, while leading a life of research devoted to studying the evolution of our solar system. As his first graduate student, I have been given the honor of offering some insight into those contributions. A measure of his impact on his students is the Robert O. Pepin Fellowship that was established by his former students in collaboration with the University. That program now provides summer support for two PhD students every year.
Professor Pepin’s academic career took him from Harvard University for his undergraduate work, to the University of California Berkeley for his doctorate, with a three-year break at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and then to the University of Minnesota to take over leadership of the noble gas research laboratory. While on sabbatical from the University, he served as Director of the Lunar Science Institute in Houston on from 1974 until 1977. Professor Pepin’s research spanned all of the noble gases, which he used as a probe the geology of our solar system. He worked with samples from bodies ranging from the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, to Mars, meteorites, and comets. He was one of lead investigators in the Apollo sample return program, both as a researcher and advisor to NASA. His work with nitrogen isotopes led to the discovery that some meteorites found on Earth came from Mars. He was also involved in spacecraft missions that were exposed to solar and cosmic radiation with a focus on the noble gas content and the story they told about the history of the Sun.
Although I ended up as a theorist in planetary science and astrophysics, Bob was always available to provide personal and professional guidance. Home visits with him and his wife Lillian by students were a key part of our evolution as scientists and people. He will be missed.