United States Senate, Chris Coons (D-DE) office
Background: I am a geologist and my AAAS congressional fellowship started in the office of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In May I transferred to my current office of Senator Chris Coons.
Question 1. Why did you become a scientist?
Answer: I was fortunate to work with great scientists for my Ph.D. and had the opportunity to keep doing science during a full academic career progressing through the ranks of assistant, associate, and tenured full professor. I am in an applied field of exploring for new ore deposits and solving real life problems is fun. Teaching about it is more fun. And getting paid to travel around the world teaching and researching is the most fun of all.
Question 2. Share a story from your past that lead to your choosing your field of work.
Answer: Part of my research involves studying why some vineyards and wineries produce better wine than others. Luckily this research requires repeated sampling to be statistically valid. In this regard my work is unusually robust. My most recent major project was as a Fulbright scholar to help move the vineyards of Argentina to unexplored terrain farther south, partly in response to global warming. The new region is being marketed as Patagonia. Periodically they send me samples to evaluate. I try to do it as robustly as possible!
Question 3. Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue.
Answer: Much of my work involves finding new resources of both material and energy to maintain and perhaps improve our civilization on Earth. I have come to realize that all the real and hard-won advances in this field have been partly to completely offset by human population growth. We have found and are producing twice as much energy, copper, iron, gold, etc. as we consumed 30 years ago but now there are twice as many people so we are right back where we started from, except the consequences of that consumption — pollution, global warming, etc. — are now twice as bad. Growth is now something I think about a lot and it seems like religion and economics are two fields that need to be transformed.
Most major religions were founded when reproducing the human species was an essential need and thus population growth ranges from an unquestioned good to a moral requirement. Somewhat similarly, most economic theories are predicated upon growth — the health of the U.S. economy is measured from a base of ~3% annual growth. Anything less is a recession, or worse. For the good of our species we need to fundamentally rethink religion and economics.
Question 4. Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I operate a small winery specializing in a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Malbec. My 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon won best in show at the Amenti del Vino competition for all wines produced in North America. After a long day on The Hill, I come home to a bottle of this wine and suddenly the world is a much nicer place.
Question 5. What's your favorite food?
Answer: My three favorite foods are chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.
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