Image courtesy of Prof. Roger H. Hewins; taken in the Jardin des Planets, Paris, France
Since I was very young I was fascinated by rocks. Rocks are books. The pages of these books are minerals. It is the job of a geologist to read the stories that rocks tell. I feel in love when I was a young student at Rutgers University with deep time as recorded by rocks. For my research, I, in part, focus on reading the story that chondritic meteorites have recorded. These are the oldest rocks in our collections and give us the age of the Solar System, 4.567 billion years. Chondrites are likened to cosmic sedimentary rocks and contain components formed in different regions and times during the life of the protoplanetary disk.
Partly because I study the oldest rocks in our collections, I think of myself as an explorer of space, time and the human experience, which I do in very specific ways. I am founding Chair and Professor of Geology, in the Department of Geology, School of Earth and Environment, at Rowan University. Geology is the key to the past. It is the discipline that reads deep time. Geology allows us to understand what is happening on Earth today (or other Solar System rocky bodies) and predict what may happen in the future by exploring the past.
Creating a Department of Geology from almost nothing other than a vision, to have a clean slate to build upon and to create an integrated curriculum designed to help shape young minds is one of the greatest challenges and joys of my career. I have drawn upon my 15 years of experience as a faculty member at the City University of New York and those of a successful researcher to create the new department, with its undergraduate and graduate curriculum.
I am the first Mission Sample Scientist (MSS) on a sample return mission from space. I am the MSS and a Co-Investigator (Co-I) on NASA’s New Frontiers 3 asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx. As the MSS, I oversee all the science related to the surface geology of asteroid Bennu, which OSIRIS-REx is currently orbiting. I also oversee science behind how Bennu evolved to its current orbit and physical shape and how those two variables may be related. My team will produce two of the four site selection maps (Sampleability and Science Value) that will help guide the mission to a decision about where to collect a sample. Finally, I oversee and plan for all the sample analyze performed by the mission and that includes the returned sample in 2023.
It is a great honor to be a Co-I on the JAXA asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa2, which returns its sample in 2020. I am a member of the sample analysis sub-team on the mission. In addition, I spent time as a visiting professor at Hokkaido University in 2015 and love learning about the Japanese cultural system and all things Japanese.
In addition to my work, I am passionate about cooking (blending American, French, Japanese and Korean cuisines) and dining with friends and family, sharing good wine and great conversation. I love traveling and exploring cultural systems and new places. Classical music is very important in my life. I am a (founding) patron member of WQXR, which is on within my home and office 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. I am an enormous fan of the Metropolitan Opera and frequent the opera house. I workout almost every day and am passionate about surfing (but only in Hawai’i thus far). I love my ‘second home’ Hawai’i. It is important to keep an active life of body and mind. I study the Japanese art of Ikebana, which has been really rewarding. I have a great fondness for French, Japanese and Korean cultures and am currently learning the Japanese language.
I self-identify as a gay man. As such, I am fortunate enough to see life from a slightly different perspective than so many others. I think that being gay has provided me with a level of sensitivity in meeting and working with people that helps to produce an open space for growth in any relationship. I’ve also seen a lot of negativity in my life because of being gay. Some of that has been directed at me, but I have also seen a lot, both subtle and gross forms, of bigotry, sexism, and all kinds of phobias, which I actively fight against in what I hope is viewed as a constructive fashion.
I am a Buddhist who practices in the Tibetan tradition. I have mainly studied with Ani Trime Lhamo in Princeton New Jersey, although the world lost her at 89 years of age in 2016. I took my vows with the Kenchen Sherab Palden Rinpoche and his brother Kenpo Trsewang Dongyal Rinpoche many years ago. I have also studied with Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche and Tulku Dakpa Rinopche and received many empowerments and teachings from numerous other lamas including His Holiness the Dali Lama. I am now a member of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center in Philadelphia and study with Lama Losang Samten, who recently gave us one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. There can be nothing more important for opening up to kindness then to map one’s own mind through the various tools taught by the Dharma.
Just because I am a scientist does not mean that I am not someone who tries to be grounded in life through religion and philosophy in addition to science. There is no conflict between science and anything other than what people want to make up in their minds because they do not understand any of the sciences or scientists. I hope my website helps you in however small of a fashion to open up to the wonders of science and being human!
“All that we are is a result of our thoughts, made up of our thoughts, and founded on our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world.”