PALISADES - Wednesday's multi-vehicle pileup on the New York Thruway in Woodbury resulted in the death of a scientist who worked at the Lamont-Doherty Observatory in Palisades.

Mark Becker, of Hillsdale, N.J., died Wednesday morning as a result of the crash. Police say the crash was set in motion when a state plow truck began smoking and another driver swerved out of the way.

Becker was on his way to teach at Bard College when he died.

Becker headed up the Geospatial Applications Division on Columbia University's campus, which is part of the university's Earth Institute in Palisades.

He was a geographer by training, and went on to expand his range into environmental science.

His colleagues say he will be missed on campus and around the world.

"Mark Becker was a genuine life force, with a bigger-than-life personality, who was deeply respected for his scientific credentials," says Becker's colleague and friend, Marc Levy, of Hillside, N.J.