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
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
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.
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