Renata Wentzcovitch

Mineral and Rock Physics



Professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

AGU embraces the global community and welcomes diverse leaders from around the world, representing various identities, voices, and perspectives. List any identities, voices, and perspectives you would bring, including but not limited to nationality, regional representations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and any other identity you feel comfortable sharing.

I was born in Brazil of Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and indigenous descent. This diverse ancestry brought transnational identity awareness very early. I am a U.S., Brazilian, and Italian citizen. I grew up in São Paulo, a cultural melting pot of  >20 million inhabitants today. I moved to the U.S. nearly four decades ago. I have also lived in England and Italy and have spent considerable time in Japan and Germany. This multi-cultural experience made me appreciate what all people have in common. Commonalities are profound; differences are more superficial. I assimilated multiple times and recognized my identity was immutable. I am a citizen of Earth in heart and mind. Similar experiences bring friendliness; differences bring shyness. As such, I became a magnet for international students in the U.S. I have had numerous advisees from Latin America, East, South, Central Asia, and Eastern and Central Europe. An Innovation Fund Award from the American Physical Society (APS), the U.S.-Africa Initiative in Electronic Structure (USAfrI), is now providing means for me to work with African researchers. I enjoy international collaborations immensely and am glad to promote much-needed interaction between the U.S. and Africa. More details of my identity are available in the American Institute of Physics Oral History Project.

Volunteer experience that relates to this position:

AGU fellowship committees: Mineral and Rock Physics (MRP; 2021, 2022) and Study of the Earth’s Deep Interior (SEDI; 2021, 2022).

AGU Meeting Session (co-)organizer for MRP and SEDI sessions almost every year since 2009.

Vice-Chair, Chair-Elect, Chair, and Past-Chair (2017-2021) of the Division of Computational Physics (DCOMP) of the American Physical Society (APS). Served in numerous committees, selected committees for DCOMP, and was responsible for the entire DCOMP program of the 2019 APS March Meeting.

Currently serving on the Honors Task Force of the APS.


This leadership position is a liaison role; it is one that aims to catalyze community and build AGU as envisioned by the strategic plan. How will you engage with members of your section to advance AGU’s strategic plan? How will you facilitate engagement with other sections and people outside AGU to support our mission?

I am a computational materials physicist who was inspired by mineral physicists and started contributing to this field thirty years ago. This happened in England while I was searching for a home for my research. Crossing a scientific boundary felt similar to crossing a geographic one, an exciting adventure. Since then, I have served two societies, AGU and APS. I have contributed to AGU’s goals of catalyzing discovery, promoting and exemplifying an inclusive scientific culture, and partnering broadly with other organizations to address scientific challenges. I have been cross-pollinating two communities with research ideas and event organizations that foster and advance inter-disciplinarity and education in Mineral Physics (MP). I have aggressively promoted MP and planetary modeling in the computational physics community (e.g., see International Union of Pure and Applied Physics 2022 Conference in Computational Physics). It is not uncommon today to see computational materials physicists embracing MP. Conversely, I have assisted in the introduction of materials simulations in MP and have witnessed its growth in importance. With every advance in materials simulations, another challenging class of problems in MP or geochemistry is tackled. Applications of materials simulations in planetary sciences are endless. The future of the field depends heavily on them. I bring to the AGU a diverse perspective, experience forged in scientific discovery and exploration, and familiarity with best practices in scientific society leadership. I have served in the chair-line of the APS Division of Computational Physics (2017-21). I will be honored to continue promoting MP through the presidency of the Mineral and Rock Physics section.

Section affiliations:

Mineral and Rock Physics; Planetary Sciences; Seismology; Study of the Earth's Deep Interior; Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology