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Deidre LaClair

Geology Student
Central Michigan University
Michigan, USA

What are you currently studying and what is your career goal?

I am currently studying geology at Central Michigan University, and would like to earn a PhD in planetary geology.

Have you always been interested in the sciences?  What sparked your interest?

I have always been interested in science.  I think it started at a very early age when my parents would encourage my siblings and I (1 older brother and 2 older sisters) to question things around us.  I also think taking trips to places like Yosemite National Park or to the ocean kept me very interested.

What were your favorite subjects in school?

Surprisingly, band was always my favorite subject in school, but I did have an Earth Science course in the 7th grade which got me very interested it astronomy, though we spent little time on it.

Were any classes particularly difficult for you, or were there any that you did not like?  If so, what did you do to get through them?

I hated biology class in high school!!  I tried very hard to not have to take it, but I didn't have any choice.  Having good friends who were suffering through the class with me is probably what helped me get through that year.

What classes or experiences in the early years best prepared you for your future career?

There weren't any classes at my school that really helped me get interested in geology.  I would have to say my parents were the most influential in that respect.  I do remember visiting the west coast of the US and seeing all these different kinds of volcanoes (cinder cones, composite, large volume calderas) and wondering, "How could there be so many different volcanoes?"

When you entered the university, was college life the way you expected?  Did you have to make any adjustments?

College was nothing like I had expected it to be.  I came from a very small school where K-12 only had 470 students.  My first semester I was in a class with 150 other students, it was a hard adjustment and it took me about 2 years to get into the "swing" of things.

Outside of your studies, what hobbies do you have?

Well, I do collect rocks, but I love music.  I play the guitar and the saxophone and I like to go hiking.

Do you have time to do "fun stuff"?

Not really, but when I do get a chance I like to watch movies or read books.

What things did you like to do as a child?  Do you have any favorite childhood memory you would like to share?

I used to play pretend with my older brother, things like Star Wars or we would pretend to be knights fighting dragons.  A favorite childhood memory?  I had such a great childhood it would be too hard to choose one as a favorite.

What were you speaking about when you were "discovered" by geologist and planetary scientist Dr. Ken Edgett?  What were the circumstances of your meeting?

I was presenting my research on "Acid sedimentary environments on Mars: The physical sedimentology" at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, when Ken approached me, saying that he had heard from colleagues that my research was the most exciting in planetary geology at the meeting.  Ken was very supportive and acted as my PR representative for the rest of the meeting.

Do you think meeting Ken Edgett and being introduced to other Mars scientists will have a lasting impact on your life?

I think it will have a direct impact on me starting in this career.  If it had not been for Ken I wouldn't have been invited to the Mars Exploration Rover workshop in Pasadena.  He helped me to make some great contacts that will make my transition from student to professional smoother.  I owe Ken a great deal.

Do you live at home or in a dorm with other students?  What is "college life" like?

I have my own apartment that I share with two guys.  I don't know how well I can answer the second question.  I would have to say that I don't lead a typical "college life".  I'm up and at the department working by 7:30 and don't usually finish working until midnight most days.  I don't get much free time, but I love what I do.  I'm not the average college student not by any stretch.

What thoughts would you like to share with students who are reading this interview?

If you are a student and reading this, my one piece of advice for you is, "Never throw away your dreams."  They're all you have to keep you going through the day, and what you remember from the night.  I never gave up on my dreams, even when my friends would tease me about them.  I hope none of you give up yours.

Do you have any favorite quotes that inspire you?

"So do all who see such times, but that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

~ Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Other links:

Woman may see space dreams come true
CMU student LaClair to assist in determining Mars landing site
Researchers to present at conference
Australian expedition provides pollution research

- 18 January 2003


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Last Updated:
19 January 2003

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