Story originally appeared on the IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering website.
When Gabriele Villarini heard the news that he had been chosen to receive the American Geophysical Union’s James B. Macelwane Medal, this normally unflappable researcher got pretty excited.
“I was in such a daze!” he remembers. The associate professor in civil and environmental engineering and IIHR associate research engineer was thrilled to receive the honor, presented each year to only 3–5 young researchers selected from the AGU’s 60,000+ members. AGU scientists study everything from the center of the Earth up to space—and everything in between.
“It’s highly competitive, very selective, and it really is a great honor,” Villarini says. “You always wish it would happen one day, but there is no guarantee. Especially given that there are so many brilliant scientists out there in so many different disciplines.”
Iowa Flood Center (IFC) Director Witold Krajewski, who served as Villarini’s PhD advisor and now works with him as part of the IFC, agrees. “This is a big time award,” Krajewski says. “Very few hydrologists have received it in the past and those who did followed up with distinguished careers. I feel very fortunate to have Gabriele first as a student and now as a colleague. We all should be proud of his accomplishments.”
The AGU selects the Macelwane Medalists based on their significant contributions to the geophysical sciences as outstanding early career scientists. Villarini and the other medalists was celebrated at the annual Honors Ceremony and Banquet held during the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. In addition, Villarini submitted an abstract for the “New Generation of Scientists” Union session during the AGU Fall Meeting.
Villarini says he is humbled to receive the medal, which he considers the most meaningful accomplishment of his career so far. “I would probably say it’s humbling,” he says. “It’s not just an award for me—it’s bigger. It wouldn’t have happened without the support of a number of people.”
He adds, “Obviously my family played a critical role—both my family in Italy and my family here.” He plans to attend the awards ceremony with his wife, Amie. “She has given me endless support, and I wanted her to be there with me when I received it,” he says.