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Meet Norman Sleep

photo of Norman Sleep
Stanford University

Career Fact Sheet Print Version

Who I am and what I Do
I teach geophysics at Stanford University. I collaborate with NASA people on topics related to life on the ancient Earth and on other planets.

Areas of expertise:
I study how the insides of planets work.  I also study habitable environments on the ancient Earth and on other planets.  I need a good knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry,and geology with some biology to do my job.

How I first became interested in this profession
I collected fossils in Michigan as a child and was at Yellowstone just after the 1959 earthquake. In college, I took geology classes as a freshman at Michigan State University.

What helped me prepare for this job
Being in graduate school in the years when plate tectonics was discovered helped me prepare.  Later, I was on a committee to advise NASA on planetary habitability.

My role models or inspirations
I really did not have any. My mother taught the nature study class at the nearby college and I rebelled by avoiding biology in college.

My education and training
I got a good background in basic sciences. I had to learn as I went along. Much of what I do did not exist when I was in school.

My career path
I went to MIT in graduate school in Geophysics and did a thesis on island arcs, mainly the Aleutians.  I acquired an interest in relating deep processes in the Earth to what happens at the surface.  Then I taught at Northwestern University until 1979.  I became interested in Mars and how water circulates through rock.  Since then I have been at Stanford.  I have become increasingly interested in biological topics.

What I like best about my job
Being around in a time in history when I can do something constructive on the basic problem of the origin of life.

What I like least about my job
Minor administrative problems are what I like least.

My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
Get a strong background in basic science.

Personal information
I teach a class in the habitability of planets. I am writing a general interest coffee table book on the subject.

Last Updated: January 13, 2005


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