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Being in Arizona, you’re at a hub. You’re in the middle of where everybody comes to you eventually. When you go to conferences, you see all your friends, like a class reunion every six months. It’s almost inevitable that at every conference we’ll get together and start reminiscing.
I’m getting more involved with missions. More and more—you’d think you’d get away from it—you start seeing these people that you grew up with now being at the same level as you, also being involved in the same missions, and you realize: Why is it that all the Arizona people are here? You start to wonder, is it just because you have so many friends that ultimately you’re going to be paired with them, or is it just that they did a good job teaching us, so we’re all still in the field? I think it’s some combination of the two. There were good people and good education and it all worked together.
The people that come out of LPL are very well-trained, and they’re dynamic, vigorous researchers. They’re just great. It’s a tremendous resource for all of planetary science to have the quality and breadth of the young people coming out of the Lunar Lab program.
All these different disciplines seemed to come together and work well together without any prejudice against each other, and that was really probably the most surprising thing that I found. There didn’t seem to be any bias against people who wanted do astronomy for their thesis verses geology or physics or anything else. That really helped contribute to the environment there.
It really felt like this was where planetary science was happening. It was pretty clear that there were very few places at that time that deeply into planetary science. The field was young; it was broad; we didn’t really know what we were going to see as we went out into the solar system. It seemed like Arizona just had all these experts in all these different areas. It was just a wonderful time to see all those opportunities.
I hope that you can reconstruct the pay that graduate students earned verses year, because it’ll make you laugh to hear how grateful we all were for this level of support. The people in the year before me—I think it might’ve been measured in the hundreds of dollars per month, or a thousand dollars per month or something like that. It was really pitiful, and several of them I believe were on food stamps, and you just buy the Brand X macaroni and cheese. Nonetheless, we were delighted to have it, and it went up rapidly thereafter. It became a very good life as a graduate student, and some would say we got too comfortable as graduate students. My particular story is that for a while I held the record for the longest time at LPL as a graduate student—eight and a half years. Bill Merline doubled my record. For a while I was very concerned that he drive safely and cross the street carefully so that he would successfully graduate and I wouldn’t hold the record anymore.
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Department of Planetary Sciences
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
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Tucson AZ 85721
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