Photo taken by Michael Milstein, Billings Gazette

Jack Farmer
Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, California

The Best and Worst of my Job

The best thing about my job is the excitement of exploring ancient worlds, either on Earth by looking back in time at old rocks, or in space by looking at old planetary surfaces or the planetary materials brought to the Earth as meteorites. My job is also fun because of all the fascinating people I meet, and the interesting seminars and discussions we have every week. It's wonderfully challenging to go into the field and try and reconstruct past events from the meager clues provided in the rocks, and it is great fun to bring samples back to the lab and tease out more clues using the microscope and other tools. Sometimes I feel like I'm Sherlock Holmes solving a crime. And I have often thought, if I ever stopped doing geology, I would like to try forensics.

What do I like the least? Working for a large bureaucracy like the federal government can be quite frustrating at times. Sometimes you feel like the system is designed to prevent your progress; traveling or buying materials for your work can really be involved because of all the paperwork and legal restrictions. Another downside of my work is the need to travel a lot. As a field-oriented geologist, you have to go where the interesting rocks are and that is usually somewhere else. That means time away from home and family, ] which I don't like.

When I was a Kid

I enjoyed being outside and really liked nature a lot. My room while I was growing up looked like a museum. I guess it still does. My wife calls my part of the house the "Smithsonian Wing" in honor of all the wonderful things I have collected over the years.

The book that really got me interested in science was "How to Know the Rocks and Minerals." But there were lots of other "How to Know..." books and I read most all of them. I also read a lot in areas other than science, like all the Zane Grey classics and books about animals. In particular, I liked to read about horses and had my own library of classic stories like the "Black Stallion." We did not have much money, so a lot of my books came from the Salvation Army. I did partcipate in science projects at school but most of my projects were just for fun at home. Being in the country most of my life, I raised lots of animals, including fish, frogs, snakes, pigeons, chickens, horses, cows, pigs; you name it, and I probably took care of it at some point. (I don't have any pets today!)

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