François Tissot, assistant professor of geochemistry and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, has been selected as one of the 2021 Packard Fellows for Science and Engineering. The fellowship is awarded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and provides early-career scientists and engineers with $875,000 over five years to pursue their research. Caltech alumnus Jerzy O. Szablowski (PhD ’15) of Rice University was also named a Packard Fellow.
Tissot’s research focuses on understanding the history of our solar system by examining the isotopic composition of meteorites (i.e., the remnants of solar system and planetary formation). Isotopes, which are twin versions of an element differing only in their number of neutrons, are also tracers of physicochemical processes at all scales, including galactic chemical evolution, planetary differentiation, and even human migrations. Tissot and his group develop methods to decode these telltale signatures in order to understand the early solar system and how planetary bodies, including the Earth, evolved. Earlier this year, Tissot and his collaborators discovered evidence for a new type of stardust that provides clues about the chemical reactions occurring early in the solar system’s lifetime.
“Reconstructing the genealogy and evolutionary pathway of planetary bodies, including the Earth, is an inherently ambitious task,” says Tissot. “The Packard Fellowship is an inspiring honor that will provide my group and I with the ability to develop unique and challenging methods to bring truly novel insights into this question of Earth’s origins. I’m extremely excited to see what discoveries the work we will now be able to conduct will lead to.”
Tissot received a diplome d’Ingénieur from École National Supérieure de Géologie in France in 2009, an MSc from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden in 2009, and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2015. In 2015, he received the Nininger Meteorite Award for his thesis work, and he served as the W.O. Crosby Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2016-17. This year, he became a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator.
The Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering, among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, are designed to allow their recipients maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. Since 1988, this program has supported the blue-sky thinking of scientists and engineers whose research over time has led to new discoveries that improve people’s lives and enhance our understanding of the universe.