Tony Haymet is at the helm of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a scientific organization that provides society with knowledge -- real data on the effects of global climate change -- that will help shape the future of the planet. He's a distinguished professor and researcher with stints at Harvard and Berkeley. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed scientific articles and serves as the University of California, San Diego's vice chancellor for marine sciences and dean of the Graduate School of Marine Sciences.
But in the category of supreme pop-culture exaltation, Haymet can spend the rest of his life claiming the era when Scripps had its own category on "Jeopardy" with Alex Trebek.
Yet the Scripps director defers recognition and praise to his students, faculty and staff.
"Scripps attracts the best and brightest. The institution remains at the summit of its field by continuing to lead in top-tier ocean, earth, marine biology and climate science and education," he said.
In the face of the current economy and continuing budget challenges, Scripps had an increase of $7.4 million in awards over last year. Its total of more than $125.7 million in contract and grant awards is the second highest in the institution's history, Haymet said.
"Before the crash, our private support was growing, and will be increasingly important in our efforts to meet the scientific challenges of our time," he added.
After a decade of planning, the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment will "further Scripps' prominence in ocean and earth science as a state-of-the-art meeting facility that brings together the brightest minds to tackle some of the greatest scientific challenges we face today," he said.
At the Scripps Seaside Forum, scientists, community, business leaders and government will interact to fuse scientific discovery and decision-making.
In November, Haymet secured a $12 million award by the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Institute of Standards and Technology. The funds will be used to construct a new laboratory building for marine ecosystem sensing, observations and modeling.
This year, the Scripps research vessel Melville returned after a two-and-a-half year voyage. The ship logged more than 100,000 nautical miles covering 10 countries and 49 research missions.
Internationally, Scripps continues to play an important role in scientific observation and analysis, including this year's air quality studies in Beijing before, during and after the 2008 summer Olympics.
Here at home, Haymet said Scripps scientists projected that Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, is under threat from overuse and climate change if future water usage is not curtailed.
Despite the economic and environmental issues faced by all, Haymet looks forward with optimism.
"I continue to be amazed at the extraordinary capabilities and brilliant research that comes out of this institution every single day," he said.
"Not a week goes by that I don't get some nugget of good news about our scientists, our students, our ships and their dedicated crews, our diversity and outreach efforts, our facilities, our news coverage or our federal and private support."
Chung Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.