Welcome from the President

Welcome to the ISEM website.  In these web pages you will be introduced to the ways in which ISEM welcomes students to the N.L. Heroy Science Hall on the SMU campus and to the ways in which ISEM reaches out to the community.  Heroy Hall was built by the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man and that name is emblazoned on the façade at the entrance to the building.

ISEM is a mission-driven, interdisciplinary 501(c)3 organization with traditional interests in geology and archaeology.  The ISEM focus has evolved since its inception and as the sciences have explored new directions.  New challenges to society continually arise and new approaches are continually devised to face them.  For the students of SMU, the world will face significant challenges in the decades ahead.  Shell, the energy company, views the issues of the future as revolving around a linked food-water-energy nexus (  Earth is now home to over seven billion people, all of whom want and deserve good lives.  By the year 2030 Earth will have over eight billion inhabitants.  By 2030, the global demand for water will increase by 30%, the demand for energy will increase by 40%, and the demand for food will increase by 50%.  Supplying those increased demands and improving the quality of life for citizens of an interwoven world where the tug of a single thread will cause widespread and sometimes unforeseen vibrations requires well-trained and creative people, willing to think originally and broadly across a wide range of disciplines.  It will require people willing to seek out the knowledge of those beyond their own fields and to appreciate and respect the data from who-knows-where in order to obtain a synthesis for the common good.  Students trained to appreciate interdisciplinary approaches are sorely needed now and for the future.  That is why an interdisciplinary approach is the priority for ISEM.

Please visit the ISEM web pages through the drop-down windows and links to explore opportunities for students and to learn about ISEM programs of outreach, interdisciplinary projects, and research. Welcome to ISEM!

Dr. Louis L. Jacobs, President


A Brief History

ISEM was founded in 1966 as the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man –an intellectual “joint venture” by Dean Claude Albritton  and William B. Heroy, Sr.  The decade of the 1960’s saw SMU beginning to develop major research centers and the doctoral programs that accompanied them.  Geological Sciences (now Earth Sciences), Archaeology (in the Department of Anthropology) and Statistics were three departments that Albritton and Heroy believed to be at a point in their development where each would be strengthened by interaction with the others.  At a time when interdisciplinary programs were far less common than they are now this was path breaking.

With the research programs in those departments well started in the University it rapidly became clear that space for their growth was becoming an urgent need.  Heroy proposed to make a gift  in support of the building,  This gift, he believed, could be matched by a grant from the National Science Foundation,  This, in turn, was to be matched by a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Thus Heroy’s gift and the two federal grants which together nearly equaled Heroy’s gift, made possible the construction of the N. L. Heroy Hall of Science.  An additional provision of Heroy’s gift was that an independent research institute would be created to administer Heroy Hall for the first twenty years and the resources and related programs in perpetuity.  The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, now styled ISEM, was thus created. Learn more »