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Dr. Joe Satterfield: Geological Leader

May 22, 2013

As a geologist, Dr. Joe Satterfield knew that building a new academic program would need a solid foundation.

From the time he started teaching in the ASU Physics Department in 2003, Satterfield has been working to expand and improve the geosciences program.  He has done such a good job that in 2010 the department added a bachelor’s degree in geosciences.  Since then, more than 60 students have declared geosciences majors, which impelled the department to change its name to the Department of Physics and Geosciences in the fall of 2012.

“It was actually fun,” Satterfield said.  “The chance to build your very own geology program and teach the classes that you want to teach, that’s fun.  The other geologists that I work with, James Ward and Heather Lehto, we all have that fun job because we are still developing the program.  We all are members of this very strong and teaching-oriented department, and the other members were very encouraging right from the beginning.”

“For many years, there have been really good careers in the geosciences,” he added.  “So, not only are we doing something that we enjoy, it is also something that is useful to society and there are many good careers available for our students after they graduate.  Those include not only petroleum geology, but also environmental geology and hydrogeology.”

For all the work he has done building the geosciences program, as well as his student and community outreach efforts, Satterfield was honored by the ASU Faculty Senate with the 2013 President’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Leadership/Service.

“The trips are challenging and fun, mainly because it’s a type of exploration. It’s climbing up in mountains and not really knowing what is on the other side.”

Dr. Joe Satterfield

“I’m very appreciative,” Satterfield said.  “I like what I do, and that helps me to work pretty hard.  But, mainly I think that I’ve just been able to take advantage of some incredible fortune in working with the really good people in my department.”

“Probably the one thing that I should be recognized for,” he added, “is having enough sense to hire James Ward and Heather Lehto to work with me teaching geology.  It kind of builds on itself when you have the chance to work with people who are your friends, who give you good ideas, and who you spend a lot of time with thinking about wild ideas and other things like that.”

Speaking of wild, an integral part of the geosciences program involves Satterfield and his colleagues leading students into the “wilds” of Texas for hands-on geology field trips to places like Big Bend National Park, the Hill Country and the Permian Basin.

“Field trips are the best way to give students the chance to deal with real data,” Satterfield said, “where they are involved in solving problems from the recognizing-the-problem stage to the gathering-the-data stage to dealing with alternative hypotheses.  The trips are challenging and fun, mainly because it’s a type of exploration.  It’s climbing up in mountains and not really knowing what is on the other side.”

Satterfield was also instrumental in forming the GEO student geology group and aligning it with local, state and national professional geology organizations.

“It helps to develop a sense of community among the students and the faculty,” Satterfield said.  “The various affiliations with professional organizations also give the students a way to establish connections with professional geologists in their fields.”

One of those connections is Midland geologist Steve Shaw, who runs a mentor program pairing professional geologists with college students.  Several ASU students have taken advantage of the program to get real-world experience with professionals, and it has also led to internship opportunities.

When he is not in the classroom or on a geology field trip, Satterfield enjoys camping and backpacking with his daughters, Becky and Emma, and Dutch oven cooking.  His wife, Allison, has a master’s degree in geology and is a periodic guest speaker in ASU classes.  Becky is a sophomore at Rice University and Emma is a sophomore at San Angelo Central High School.

Dr. Joe Satterfield

Associate Professor of Geology

Ph.D., Rice University
M.A., University of Missouri-Columbia
B.A., Rice University

Teaching Areas
Physical Science

Other Activities
Faculty Advisor, GEO
Geology Field Trips

President’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Leadership/Service