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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee Professor Larry McKay has been selected for a prestigious international lectureship that will take him around the world.

McKay, a professor in UT’s Earth and Planetary Sciences department, will spend the next year traveling across the country and around the world as the Geological Society of America’s Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer for 2008.

Each year a group of geologists who previously served in the role award the lectureship to a researcher, based on his or her expertise and area of study.

“Being chosen by my peers for this honor is particularly gratifying,” said McKay, who is UT’s Jones Professor of Hydrogeology. “The lectureship presents a unique opportunity to interact with an amazingly diverse array of people.”

As the Birdsall-Dreiss lecturer, McKay will give invited lectures at universities around the world. He has developed three lecture topics that cover a wide selection of his research, and that vary in their level of technical content.

“I want to have some flexibility in how I talk with different audiences,” said McKay. “One of my goals in this effort is to help the people who attend these lectures increase their understanding of hydrogeology and its relevance.”

Funding for McKay’s travel comes both from GSA and from various offices within the university. Bruce Bursten, dean of UT’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the lectures represent a significant opportunity for outreach.

“This is a terrific honor for Larry,” Bursten said. “We are proud to have him represent the research excellence of the college as he interacts with students and faculty of universities around the world.”

McKay estimates he will give between 40 and 50 lectures over the course of the year, and he is planning tours through Europe and China to speak at universities there. He will kick off his year as the Birdsall-Dreiss lecturer with an address at UT on Nov. 9.

The lectures draw on McKay’s extensive research experience. Topics include the roles of cracks and large pores in the hydrology of clay, the role of geology in studying waterborne pathogens, and a look at his work with the cleanup of the badly polluted Chattanooga Creek in Southeast Tennessee.

More information on McKay and his lecture topics, a schedule of talks and a lecture request form are available online at


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409,
Larry McKay (865-974-0821,