World leading ANU scientists recognised among nation's best

25 May 2021

Two Australian National University academics have been recognised as leaders in their fields by being elected fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

Director of the Research School of Earth Sciences Professor Dorrit Jacob said it was humbling to receive the great honour of joining the academy.

The geochemist began her career looking at what's happening 200 kilometres below our feet, especially how diamonds form.

Prof Jacob did her PhD at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany before turning her attention to the surface of the planet and how clams and corals form.

One day in the gemology department, a jeweller presented some pearls with odd markings on them, sending the scientists down a rabbit hole trying to decipher how they had been formed.

"That triggered that whole field [of research] and then I got a future fellowship for this and came to Australia," Prof Jacob said.

These days she does a lot of work with Australian South Sea Pearls to discover the impacts of climate change and other factors on pearl formation.

"This is really the carbon cycle ... I look at how materials form and when they form and eventually, hopefully this will all lead to understanding more how material moves in the planet," Prof Jacob said.