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Dr. Ronald Smith

British Scientist Receives WHOl's Ketchum Award

November/December 1996
WHOI Newletter

Dr. Ronald W. Smith, Professor of Applied Mathematics at England's Loughborough University, received the Institution's tenth Ketchum Award November 15 and presented the award lecture, entitled "Some Discharges are Better than Others: A Theoretical Approach to Siting Ocean Outfalls" in Redfield Auditorium. A reception followed at the Institution's Exhibit Center at 15 School Street.

The Ketchum Award is presented by the Institution through the Rinehart Coastal Research Center to a scientist who demonstrates innovative coastal research, leadership in the scientific community, and attention to the effects of marine pollution on the coastal environment and society. Other selection criteria include a history of collaboration with scientists in other disciplines, serving as an inspiration to students and younger scientists, effectively translating research results into the policy arena, and through research addressing environmental effects of society's activities in the coastal zone.

Ron Smith has made major contributions to our understanding of dispersion and pollutant transport in rivers and estuaies," said Rinehart Coastal Research Center Director Wayne "Rocky" Geyer. "His theoretical papers on shear dispersion have provided important advances in our understanding of the complex interactions between tidal motions and density-driven flows. He has also used his theoretical approach to address pollutant dispersal in estuaries, with a number of practical applications related to sewage effluent and heated power plant effluent."

Smith was born in Liverpool, England, and studied mathematics as an undergraduate and graduate student at Bristol University, receiving a Ph.D. in 1970. His thesis focused on wave trapping in the oceans: edge waves on beaches, water waves over under-sea ridges and low frequency Rossby waves. Following postdoctoral research at Essex University, where he studied larger waves at sea, Smith accepted a research fellowship at Carmbridge University to study environmental fluid mechanics of electricity generation and his research shifted from waves to hot water discharges into the ocean. The 1976 drought in England and its impact on rivers and estuaries led Smith back to studies in ocean mixing. Two successive research fellowships followed from the Royal Society of London. In 1990 Smith received a Doctorate in Science from Cambridge University and was appointed to the tenured faculty at Loughborough University as Professor of Mathematlcs. From 1992 to 1996 he chaired the Pollution Group of the United Kingdom's Coastal Research Facility, and during the last academic year chaired the British Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Mechanics Colloquia. Smith enjoyed a brief sabbatical at WHOI in October and November.

As a student Ron Smith earned his living during the summer vacation as a professional runner on the Northern Scottish Highland games' circuit. In 1964 he was the Light Events Highland Games Champion at Wick, Scotland (winning a total of 45 pounds sterling, then $100, which he says seemed like a lot at the time). He says the main claim to fame of Loughborough University is its dominance of UK track and field athletes (the most famous former student being Sebastian Coe), and admits he has been teased that the Loughborough selection process must be "On your marks, get set, go."

The B. H. Ketchum Award was established by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1983 in tribute to the late Bostwick H. "Buck" Ketchum, an intemationally respected oceanographer. Ketchum was associated with WHOI for 40 years and was a strong force in developing biological oceanography. He retired in 1977 as Associate Director of the Institution and died in 1982.