I ran out of money when I was halfway through a physics degree, so I moved to Oregon, worked in some factories for a while, and finished my degree there. Since my GPA wasn't high enough to get into grad school, I decided to take one more year of classes. I earned a second degree in math, working hard to get really high grades. Along the way I took an introductory geology course; I was fascinated by it. I thought, "Wait, I could do geophysics—physics and math—and go outside?! That's the perfect combination." That’s when I decided I wanted to be a geophysicist. Now I integrate geophysics, seismology, petrology, and mineral physics to investigate Earth’s mantle and how the mantle interacts with the crust.
One of my favorite parts of my job is that I have some control over my day, and I do things that are interesting to me. I love teaching and I love the students. A lot of students haven't had the same chances in life, and I do what I can to help them get to where they want to be. I enjoy helping to mentor students on how to do research and how to overcome challenges, so that they can land a good job that they enjoy.
Derek Schutt is an associate professor for the Geosciences department at Colorado State University. He is currently working with colleagues to develop a new method to measure shear-wave splitting.
Schutt is a principal investigator on an EarthScope project deploying seismometers in the Mackenzie Mountains in the Northwest and Yukon Territories of Canada. The project will run through 2020. The project was a subject of the inSights article "Mackenzie Mountains Mystery: New EarthScope Project Peers Underneath an Unlikely Mountain Range."
—by Beth Grassi and Sarah Tewksbury