CWU News

Two CWU Professors to Serve on National Science Foundation Research Teams

Two Central Washington University professors have been retained by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead research in geology and chemistry. Audrey Huerta, geology, became a program director of the Tectonics Program on August 3, while Anne Johansen, chemistry, will begin her second year overseeing the Atmospheric Chemistry Program on September 3.  

Huerta will oversee the funding of research aimed at understanding plate tectonics and the deformation of the Earth’s outer layer. With an annual budget of more than $9 million, “the program funds projects related to the Cascades, Rocky Mountains, and other mountain ranges, and many of the projects emphasize engaging undergraduate students in the research,” Huerta explained.

Johansen initially began her work as the program officer of the Atmospheric Chemistry Program in September 2019. Its mission is to support basic atmospheric chemistry research, with an eye on societal needs in areas such as agriculture, human health, and polar and ocean sciences. 

“My main responsibility is to manage the merit review process of incoming science [funding] proposals,” Johansen explained. “Throughout my first year, I found that my perspectives and feedback were highly valued, which made this experience particularly rewarding. I’m excited to get a second year at NSF.”

The NSF funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by the nation’s colleges and universities. Huerta and Johansen were eligible for assignment to the federal agency through Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments. The agency pays their salaries and benefits during their appointments. 

Both professors will return to CWU after completing their appointments and they are quick to point out how much their work will benefit CWU and the NSF. 

“Upon completion of my NSF assignment, I intend to bring back to CWU the intricate knowledge I have gained of the merit review process,” Johansen said. “It will allow me to better (help) university faculty and students identify and garner external funding sources in the future.”

Huerta also looks forward to sharing what she has learned with other people on campus, saying, “I look forward to sharing my NSF experience and the cutting-edge science it involved with students in my classes, and helping them see the opportunities in geology.”