San Jacinto College faculty spotlight: Geology brings life of exploration for Malcolm Sadler
Jeannie Peng-Armao -- October 25, 2012
PASADENA, Texas – Geology is more than just the study of rocks. To San Jacinto College geology professor Malcolm Sadler, it’s the study of the environment that surrounds us. Sadler’s field of study has taken him across the globe, an adventure he aims to pass on to his students as he and his science and math colleagues produce the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates.
Q. What inspired your interest in geology?
A. I grew up on a 400-acre farm in south-central Kentucky. Our driveway was a fourth of a mile off of the road, and I would go to the “first curve” (as I called it) to look for rocks as a kid. I found a lot of cool little fossils but didn’t really understand what they were or how they arrived there.
I didn’t give geology a second thought until I was a senior in high school, when we were asked to do an English paper, and I talked about the different layers of the Earth. I had my father, who had a wood shop, build a small wooden model of the Earth - a solid pine ball with a wedge cut out of it. I colored in the core, the mantle and the crust. I think it was after this experience that I was hooked on geology.
Q. Where did you attend university?
A. I attended Austin Peay State University from 1990 to 1994 and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Geology in May 1994. I then went to Auburn University and graduated with a Master of Science in Geology in March 1997.
Q. After graduation, where did you work?
A. I ended up returning home to my father (on the farm) and worked for him during the summer planting beans and such. I taught geology classes at Austin Peay but the majority of my time was spent teaching geology classes at Fort Campbell Army Base. I taught soldiers and their families for about five years. I received a teaching assistantship at Auburn University and taught physical geology labs and occasionally taught a lecture for a full-time professor.
Q. Where has geology taken you geographically?
A. Where has geology not taken me geographically, is the real question. Places and countries I’ve visited include Iceland, Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Africa. I have also been through almost every state, with exception of North Dakota, and to almost every national park in America. Next year, China is on my calendar for a 20-day visit.
Q. What are some of the career paths in geology?
A. The real important one these days seems to be anything related to the environmental field, but students can also study volcanoes, earthquakes, rocks and minerals, exploration for oil, and all sorts of areas. You can even study to be a planetary geologist. I should say that geology is a culmination of many different scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, and definitely math. So, if one is interested in becoming a geologist, then they will need to be really good in all of these other disciplines as well as looking at rocks.
Q. Do you notice a shortage of geologists?
A. Many oil companies these days are hiring environmental geologists, and this seems to be a hot field, or so I’ve been told.
I trained to be a paleontologist and had every intention of working as a field geologist, after graduating from Austin Peay. However, I decided to go into the education field of geology.
Q. Why is teaching geology important to you?
A. I’ve always maintained that it’s incredibly difficult for most people to get out and explore their world, so I like to bring the world to my students… the geologic world, that is. In fact, I have traveled to so many places that, I tell my students, I could probably replace most geologic pictures (from their textbook) for those that I have taken myself. Of course, I’m biased as to geology. I think everyone should know at least something about this amazing Earth in which we all live.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.