For more than a decade Roger Smith has presided over the Geophysical Institute, serving as the chief administrator for all aspects of the facility. With roughly 300 employees, a $30 million budget and active research underway, the job has proven it takes both mental and physical stamina. Despite challenges experienced in the position, the outgoing director feels he’s met the goals he set out to achieve at the start of his administration.
“Over the 11 years I’ve been director there has been considerable improvement in remote sensing. There have been very successful applications of remote sensing in volcanology, ice, the technique of SAR (synthetic aperture radar), and more recently, the unmanned aircraft program,” Smith said.
In addition to the advances in remote sensing, several other projects are underway. Smith has created an eighth research group — the Education group — and the Undergraduate Research Program is in development.
Smith came to Alaska in 1984 to serve as an associate professor of physics in a dual appointment between the GI and the Physics Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Beyond the scientific strides seen during his tenure here, Smith is fond of the unique culture that exists at the GI.
“We are a community in and of ourselves,” Smith said. “Everyone has a recognizable part in the work that we do. It’s a team of people united for the success of the whole. I like that idea.”
Smith will continue to live in Fairbanks, Alaska after retirement. He may conduct scientific research again, but his sights are set on exploring areas in the Lower 48, spending time with family, and pursuing his hobbies.