Gao named interim chair of geosciences, geological and petroleum engineering at Missouri S&T

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On June 29, 2023

Dr. Stephen S. Gao, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering (GGPE) at Missouri University of Science and Technology, has accepted the role of interim chair of his home department effective Aug. 1.

Dr. Stephen S. Gao will be interim chair of geosciences, geological and petroleum engineering at Missouri S&T effective Aug. 1. Photo by Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T.

For the past year, Gao has served for the past year as interim chair of computer science at Missouri S&T.

“Leading the computer science department has been a wonderful experience, but I am honored to now move back to my home department,” Gao says. “Our GGPE department has some of the country’s top scholars, and our students do tremendous work as well. I am excited to support everyone’s great work, while also growing our student enrollment and research portfolio.”

Gao is a renowned geophysicist who studies earthquakes, seismic anisotropy, receiver function analysis, and the structure and dynamics of the earth’s crust and mantle. He has been a member of the Missouri S&T faculty since 2006 and is director of the university’s High Performance Computing Research Center.   

Gao earned a bachelor’s degree in marine geology and geophysics from Ocean University of China, College of Marine Geosciences, in Qingdao. He earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he also served as a post-doctoral researcher.

Gao has won multiple awards at S&T for being an outstanding faculty member and teacher, and he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2012.

Gao replaces Dr. Jeffrey Cawlfield, a professor of geological engineering, who has led the department since August 2021. Dr. David Borrok, vice provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, says Cawlfield should be commended for his work as chair.

“Dr. Cawlfield has been a dedicated S&T faculty member since 1987, and he has done an outstanding job leading the GGPE department,” Borrok says. “He has served S&T in a variety of leadership roles and has always worked hard to support his students, faculty and staff.

“Dr. Gao will have big shoes to fill, but I have no doubt that he will be up for the challenge. He has already demonstrated his abilities as a leader for the computer science department, and now he will be able to guide the future of his home department.”

For more information about Missouri S&T’s GGPE programs, visit

About Missouri S&T

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit

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