Meet: Matt Golombek
Project Scientist, Mars Pathfinder
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Who I Am
As the Mars Pathfinder project scientist, I am in charge of the overall
science content of the mission and in making sure the science teams are
organized to plan for and receive and analyze the data after landing.
Up-front, I argue for making sure that the science stays on the mission
so that we're doing something interesting and useful. I need to make sure
the team is poised and ready with the proper people in it to be able to
analyze that data in a quickly and efficient manner. And for Pathfinder,
most importantly, to decide what to do with the rover each day.
How I Got to Where I Am
I originally thought being a geologist was neat because you didn't have
to work in the office and because you could understand why mountains were
mountains and valleys were valleys. I got interested in geology in college;
I thought it would be a interesting thing to go into. I took my first
class and that was pretty neat. I took my second class and I thought it
was the worst thing I ever signed up for! So I got out of geology and
took a whole bunch of liberal arts, theater and art classes and decided
those were even worse! So, I got back into geology! I looked at planetary
geology and thought that was kind of neat because it's "space stuff" and
because it had real surfaces and real rocks.
I got my undergraduate degree in geology from Rutgers College in 1976
and my Master's and Ph.D. degrees in geology from the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst in 1978 and 1981. I was also a post-doctoral fellow at the Lunar
and Planetary Institute in Houston from 1981-1983, after which I joined
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a research scientist. I've worked on
a variety of Mars developmental project studies and have been the Pathfinder
project scientist since its inception in 1993.
I'm 42 years old, have been married for 17 years, and have four-year
old twins (a boy and girl). I used to like to go hiking and play softball
but I haven't done much of that lately! My real passion is exploring the
American West; we all love to do that.
I grew up in the New York City area and went to college in Rutgers University,
New Jersey. Living there opened my horizons to the diversity of our society
and of occupations available. And that it was important to choose an occupation
one enjoyed. I always remember being interested in why things were the
way they were. What got me interested in geology was wanting to know why
there were mountains and valleys and how they got that way. And one could
work in the field outside of the office! Planetary geology was even more
fun because one got to study not only the Earth but the other planets
as well. All of this is a roundabout way of saying, "Go with your heart!"