You might think that Earth science and space exploration have little in common. But Arizona State University is marrying the research fields into a single school, creating a pathway for students to learn engineering and scientific skills and eventually develop new technologies to discover more about our Earth and other planets.
The new School of Earth Science and Space Exploration will officially open this summer with the arrival of the program’s founding director, Kip Hodges, currently a professor of geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Starting this fall, ASU students will be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree from the school. Graduate programs will be added over the next several years.
Hodges said Monday he wants to create a unique program that requires an education in several disciplines, including geology, astrophysics and engineering.
“We’re going to take students who are sort of driven by scientific problems but we’ll be educating them to understand and develop the instrumentation to address scientific problems,” he said.
The new program will strike a balance between giving students a well-rounded education while allowing them to focus on certain specialties within Earth and space exploration. “You don’t want to generate students that are jacks of all trades and masters of nothing,” Hodges said.
Although much of NASA’s current efforts are focused on learning more about Mars and whether the planet can sustain life, Hodges said students at ASU will learn more about other planets by exploring their own. For example, studying global warming on Earth can prepare students to examine that issue on other planets, he said.
Also, Hodges said several scientists are awaiting the day when life is discovered on other planets.
Students will need a broad background to fully understand and investigate such a discovery, he said.