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Christina Hulbe is chairwoman of the geology department at Portland State University, Oregon. She takes up her position at Otago's National School of Surveying in February.
Prof Hulbe is no stranger to Otago, having enjoyed a spell at the university as a Fulbright senior scholar in 2009.
She said the university's commitment to research, teaching, and its role as an agent for positive change in the community convinced her Otago was an ideal place to begin a new chapter in her career.
As a geophysicist who specialises in glaciology, Prof Hulbe's research involves measuring changes in glaciers and polar ice sheets and using computer modelling to study physical processes underlying observed change.
Ultimately, this knowledge led to better projections of future change and better understanding of the past, she said.
In advancing her own polar glaciology research, Prof Hulbe said the ability to take part in New Zealand's growing Antarctic research endeavour was an exciting prospect.
"Both the recently created Antarctic Research Institute and expertise in the School of Surveying will give me great new opportunities to build on my past work and chart new territory.
"The polar research conducted by faculty and students at Otago is world class and I look forward to joining that interdisciplinary community."
Prof Hulbe intends to work collaboratively with academic and general staff while exploring ways for it to connect across campus and further afield. She also plans a series of conversations with New Zealand's professional surveying community about the school, its programmes, and the evolving nature of the profession in the 21st century.
Prof Hulbe has a bachelor's degree in geological engineering from Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, a master's in geology from Ohio State University, and a PhD in geophysics from the University of Chicago.
She has been widely published, has served as vice-president of the International Glaciological Society and is chairwoman of the organisation's publications committee.
She has also served a term as physical sciences editor at the journal Antarctic Science.
Otago University vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne is delighted Prof Hulbe has accepted the position.
"As well as being an excellent choice to lead the School of Surveying, she is well-placed to make important contributions to Otago's polar research, an area in which the university already enjoys national leadership and international recognition for excellence."