What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?
You have to enjoy what you are doing, and you have to be good at it. If you like science and engineering, then they can be great careers. Also, don't forget English and social studies. To be a good scientist or engineer, you have to communicate and you have to know how society works. And it's good to have a sense of history.
What are your personal goals for the future?
I want to go on making discoveries about the planets, and I want to apply the "big-picture" way of thinking about the planets to environmental problems of the Earth.
What are your dreams for the future of exploration?
I believe we will discover evidence that life evolved elsewhere in the Universe, not just on Earth. Whether that evidence will come from our solar system, from planets around other stars, or from signals of advanced civilizations, I don't know. But I believe it will happen.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is to understand how the planets work, particularly how the weather and climate systems work. When you get new data, you have to decide what is important and what is not. Otherwise the data will overwhelm you.
What is unique about your job?
I'm a teacher, and each student brings his or her own unique aspect to each project. Each new discovery about the planets is unique.
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When did you decide you wanted to be in the space industry and how did you go for it?
My favorite subjects in high school and college were math and physics. I took up meteorology and oceanography in graduate school, but the lure of the unknown brought me to planetary science. Caltech was great because they created an academic program in planetary science. Being close to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a big advantage.
Why do you think Mars Exploration is important?
There are some deep mysteries about Mars: Was it once warm and wet? Is there liquid water there today? Did life ever evolve there? These questions are important because they tell us about the Earth and about our own origins.
Describe the human side of robotic exploration.
People working together are what make these missions possible. Other people get involved when we bring the images and other data back to Earth. It is important that we develop the tools that will bring more data to Earth, so everyone can have a virtual presence on the spacecraft.
Do you have any hobbies?
Sports. I have always enjoyed tennis, skiing, and backpacking, but I took up basketball with my youngest son, and I took up surfing and snowboarding with my grandchildren. I coached baseball, softball, and soccer with my sons and daughters and introduced them to the sports I love.