Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
Who I Am
I am a planetary scientist who studies the composition of solid surfaces throughout the solar system. This means that I am interested in the minerals and rock types found on the surfaces of rocky bodies and the various ices found on the surfaces of icy bodies. Knowing what these materials are is important for understanding how the interiors and surfaces of the bodies originally formed and how they evolved over time.
My work includes telescopic and spacecraft observations, laboratory work and computer calculations.
My colleagues and I use telescopes located on Earth and on spacecraft to measure the sunlight that is reflected from the surfaces of objects in the solar system. We use instruments called spectrometers to measure the reflected light at different wavelengths, such as blue, green, or red. Various materials will reflect sunlight differently at each wavelength and this allows us to identify which material is present on a surface.
We also use spectometers in the laboratory to measure the reflected light from materials that we think may be on other surfaces. We can compare these laboratory measurements with our telescopic observations in order to more clearly understand the telescopic observations.
We can use computers to calculate what the reflectance of individual materials, or mixtures of materials, would look like at different wavelengths. By comparing these calculations with the telescopic observations we can more clearly understand the relative amounts of the materials present on a surface.
My Career Journey
In high school I did not take many science courses and after I received my diploma I worked at various odd jobs for about eight years. At that time I decided to go to college and was very interested in geology, the study of Earth. During my junior and senior years of college I had the opportunity to work with a professor who had been involved in obtaining laboratory reflectance data for geologic minerals. I was facinated by this ability to determine surface composition and decided to pursue this interest in graduate school. I selected a graduate program at another university that had a department that specialized in telescopic observations and laboratory studies related to understanding surface composition. While in graduate school I was fortunate to be involved in both aspects of the work. After completing graduate school I received a position to pursue this work with an eminant researcher at NASA Ames Research Center. At Ames the focus of my research took on a new direction by dealing more with computer calculations of the reflectance of surfaces.
Likes/Dislikes About Career
The best thing about my job is the excitement of discovering new information about objects within our solar system. The worst thing about my job is that as time passes I have less time to do everyday science as I spend more time on management activities.
As a Kid
I was a pretty normal child, I read a lot but on no specific subject. I loved the out-of-doors and that is why I decided to pursue geology when I returned to college.
The professor who I worked with during my junior and senior years of college really helped influence my decision to pursue my research.
I was born in Seattle, Washington but because my father was in the military we moved to various cities while I was growing up, including: Kobe, Japan; El Paso, Texas; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; New Haven, West Virgina, and Seattle, Washington. For graduate school I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and after completing school I moved to Redwood City, California. Recently my wife and I moved to Livermore, California where we currently reside. On occassion, I still enjoy the opportunity to go for a hike, or a bike ride. With winter coming, my wife and I hope to be able to go cross-country skiing soon.