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Photo of Dawn Sumner
   Dawn Sumner
   Associate Professor of Geology and Chancellor's Fellow
University of California, Davis
Davis, California
United States Of America
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High School: Ellensburg High School, Ellensburg,  WA
B.S., Geology, California Institute of Technology
Ph.D., Geology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Background Information
I chose to study geology because geologists can hike around in exotic places like Baja California, South Africa, Egypt, Western Australia, and the Bahamas while actually working. What more can you ask for from a career than getting paid to work on interesting problems in beautiful places? To get to that point, you have to start in school. I spent my undergraduate years at the California Institute of Technology taking as many field trips as possible. Between trips, I worked in the subbasement lab of Prof. Joe Kirschvink when the “Snowball Earth” hypothesis first started its roll into popular science. In graduate school, I spent my time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with Prof. John Grotzinger on 2.5 billion year old carbonates in South Africa, trying to document evidence for life on early Earth. Having eventually convinced myself and John that life did exist, I returned to California Institute of Technology as an O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellow and soon after joined the Faculty at University of California, Davis. Now I raise money for exotic, working trips for my students as well as myself, researching both modern and ancient microbe-mineral interactions. However, in recent years, my interests have expanded to include Martian geology, with a particular focus on figuring out how to evaluate if life ever existed on Mars. I have no intention of going to Mars, so this interested can only be explained as a nerdy attraction to an extremely challenging problem with very cool equipment.

Contributions to Mars Exploration

content image for contributions section My contributions to the study of Mars to date have mostly been through participating in the Mars Exploration Program Advisory Group, which is a group of scientists that helps NASA shape the scientific goals for Mars exploration. [more contributions ...]
Personal Reflections

content image for personal reflections section For me, science is a fun adventure. As a scientist, I get to ask difficult questions and try to answer them by piecing clues together, much like a detective works to find out who-dunnit. I chose to study geology because the actual work involves hiking, making observations, and trying to understand the processes that formed the rocks using all sorts of information from biology, physics and chemistry. [more personal reflections ...]