Professor Laura Crossey’s interest in planetary science at the University of New Mexico dates back to her childhood memory of watching the first steps on the moon on her grandmother’s black and white television in Illinois. Today, she has over 150 peer-reviewed publications and is a Distinguished Professor – the highest title the faculty can have – in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UNM.
Crossey is a pioneer for women in geosciences, as she was the second woman to be hired at the EPS faculty in 1985 and the first female holder of the department. She was also the first female president of the department from 2013 to 2016.
“I’m generally involved in male dominated communities,” Crossey said. “In my own training, I didn’t have a female faculty member until my master’s program at Washington University in St. Louis.
Crossey noted the inequalities of opportunity and representation for women that have been predominant throughout her career, but said she never let it stop him from pursuing her passions; She is very committed and aware of providing representation and support to minority students in a predominantly male discipline, in particular as a leader of the Alliance for Minority Participation.
The Distinguished Professor honor is a meaningful recognition of someone taking on greater roles within the University to have a deeper impact, according to fellow Distinguished Professor Kerry Howe.
“Being recognized internally here at the University of New Mexico as a Distinguished Professor helps recognize the excellence of our program,” said Crossey.
Crossey is part of the UNM Sustainable Water Resources Grand Challenge team, which is made up of many esteemed scientists from the University; the team is focused on solving water problems in New Mexico’s arid climate.
“We live and die writing at a Research 1 university, whether you are writing a proposal (or) a peer-reviewed scientific paper; and, in my case, I do a lot of outreach, so there’s a lot of writing and communication that goes into these activities, ”Crossey said.
Crossey is working with Howe at the Center for Water and the Environment (CWE) on water sustainability, which has enabled Crossey to conduct research in an interdisciplinary manner. The aim of this organization is to solve environmental water issues, which are important due to the water scarcity in the southwest, according to Howe.
“It’s really important that the work (CWE) is interdisciplinary,” Howe said. “Having professors like Laura Crossey… really helps make this research more impactful. “
Crossey grew up in Illinois, citing the lack of interesting geological features as a driving force to pursue his undergraduate education at Colorado College and later establish a successful career in geoscience in New Mexico. Because of this, she feels lucky to have been a geoscience teacher in New Mexico due to its abundance of geological phenomena.
“New Mexico has volcanoes, deep basement rocks, faults, folds, modern environments, and the Rio Grande Rift, which is a globally significant tectonic feature,” said Crossey.
Crossey is part of the Institute of Meteoritics at Northrop Hall, and Crossey said this extensive scientific community has helped control the rovers on Mars.
“Right now there are two rovers circulating on Mars, and those rovers have Institute instruments,” Crossey said. “It’s like the best kept secret on the UNM campus.”
Crossey traveled the world to work on springs and groundwater in arid regions including the Southwestern United States, the Western Desert of Egypt, the Great Artesian Basin in Australia, and Tibet. Closer to home, Crossey said her work at the Grand Canyon had a significant impact on her studies and areas of research, and that she also extended this work to UNM undergraduates via tours. in the field. She said these local and international research opportunities help foster understanding of Western experiences in the United States.
“It’s really fascinating to work with cultural leaders in international communities and here too in the western United States,” said Crossey.
Crossey said she is surrounded by wonderful female professors in the PSE department, and that at least 50% of undergraduate and graduate students in PSE are women.
“That’s what I’m fortunate enough to do here at UNM – to be in an incredibly strong and supportive department,” said Crossey.
Rebecca Hobart is a freelance journalist for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @DailyLobo