The College of

Science & Technology

Faculty Spotlight


Meet Dr. John Luczaj

Dr. John Luczaj is a Professor of Geoscience in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences.  John holds a B.S. in Geology from UW-Oshkosh, a M.S. in Geology from the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in Geology from Johns Hopkins University.  John worked as a senior scientist at an environmental consulting firm in Michigan before joining the faculty at UW-Green Bay in 2005.  His research focuses on deep aquifer systems, water-rock interaction, fluid-inclusions in minerals, karst systems, and sedimentary geology.
 
 

Growing up, what did you want to be?

I was born in central Wisconsin, but I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin. I have always loved being outdoors observing the complexity of nature. My fascination with geoscience started at a young age, although I didn’t realize it. I watched how water seeped through beaver dams and flowed in streams, I dug in sand and gravel pits, and I walked along the railroad tracks near my house looking at rocks. I guess I always loved chemistry and geology, and it was these courses, along with encouragement from my teachers in high school, that inspired me to be a geologist/geochemist.





Tell us about your research interests and why you are passionate about this topic.


I have always been interested in all areas of science, but in geoscience in particular. Thinking about how the world works has fascinated me since I was a child. As a result, my research has allowed me to explore topics ranging from groundwater chemistry to Earth history, cave geology, petroleum geology, geologic mapping, mineral deposits, and more.
 
There are several different areas of research I pursue, sometimes with students and sometimes independently. A major focus has been to investigate the geochemistry of the rocks in eastern Wisconsin and learn how this controls the chemistry of groundwater. I’ve also had the opportunity to coauthor a book on Earth System History, and I’m presently working on the Roadside Geology of Michigan. Other research involves fluid-inclusion analysis (using bits of fluid trapped inside minerals as they grow) to understand the temperatures and fluid compositions that have affected sedimentary rocks. Most recently, students and I have been using stable and radioactive isotopes of various chemical elements to understand groundwater recharge, flow, and geochemical history.

See some of my research here........

 

What do you like about mentoring students?

To me, one of the greatest accomplishments I can have is to pass the torch of knowledge to others. I really enjoy showing others my perspective and learning how they perceive the world. This is especially true when students have the “lightbulb moment” and they discover something new or reach a major conclusion. It is these experiences that drive scientists to learn more. Having the opportunity to work closely with both undergraduate and graduate students means that there is typically some way in which students can work with me on a particular research topic.  

What is the best advice you would give to Geoscience majors?

I often tell students “The Earth is our Laboratory.” I firmly believe this. Geoscience is special because it deals with vast scales of space (from the inner structure of a mineral grain to the scale of planets) and time (from seconds to billions of years). Because of this, geoscientists get to play more of a detective role than many other scientists, since we cannot replicate every experiment in the laboratory. We sometimes need to rely upon evidence preserved in the rock and fossil record to reconstruct physical, chemical, and biological events. Geoscience students need to draw on their experience from all fields of science. I have three pieces of advice for geoscience majors:
    1. Do a research project. Employers and graduate schools both expect you to have practical, applied experience that goes beyond a homework or lab assignment. Research projects are fun and interesting and they help you learn how to develop and communicate new ideas.
    2. Go on field trips. We offer field trips in several courses, but students can take optional regional geology field trips every semester. Go beyond what you can learn in the classroom.
    3. Explore the Earth on your own. Of course this includes outdoor experiences, such as visiting Glacier National Park or Door County, but it also means exploration of ideas. Ask questions, read as much as you can, and become the best geoscientist you can be!

What are you most proud of in your time at UWGB?

There are three accomplishments of which I’m particularly proud. First, I was awarded the 2014-2015 Founders Association Award for Excellence in Community Outreach. I enjoy educating people of all ages about geology and environmental science.
Second, students and I have had the opportunity to greatly improve our understanding of the groundwater and bedrock geology of northeastern Wisconsin. This knowledge helps our region better understand the structure of our landscape, along with our drinking water quality and quantity.
Finally, I think students get a special experience when they can directly interact with an author of a textbook. I’ve had the opportunity to coauthor “Earth System History” that I use in one of my geoscience courses. I’m currently writing another book titled “The Roadside Geology of Michigan” which will be used in our geoscience field trip course.

What is the best part of being a UWGB faculty member?

Great students, great colleagues, and an environment that encourages professors to develop connections and ideas outside of one narrow field of study is what makes being a faculty member here special. First, our students are fantastic, and our smaller class sizes allow us to work with students directly to make sure they have the best educational experience possible. Second, I feel that we have an outstanding group of science faculty and staff that works very hard to keep UWGB a great place for teaching, research, and community outreach. Finally, I feel that UWGB has given me opportunities that would not be available at most other institutions – both in and out of the classroom. I’ve had the chance to teach at least 15 different courses, my research is open to many topics, and I’ve been able to interact extensively with the greater northeastern Wisconsin community while participating in summer camps, field trips, and invited talks.
 

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