An Interview with David Lawrence

Meet Dawn Participating Scientist David Lawrence
The following interview is a written interview conducted by the Outreach team at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
Dawn participating scientist David Lawrence

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Dawn mission?

No single compelling aspect. Being able to reveal two planetary bodies that we know very little about is extremely exciting. I am also very interested to learn about the composition of both Vesta and Ceres.

How are you participating in Dawn science as it relates to the Dawn mission?

I will be assisting in the analysis and interpretation of data from the GRaND instrument.

What are some of the challenges that accompany your job with the Dawn mission?

Carrying out analyses of gamma-ray and neutron data in a complete manner is quire complicated and requires knowledge of physics, engineering, and planetary science.

What do you enjoy most about your work with the Dawn mission?

I’ve just started working with the team. But I’m sure I will enjoy working with the data; I also look forward to working with other scientists on the Dawn team. They are a great group of people and they will be fun to work with.

Describe your thoughts and feelings as the Dawn spacecraft is approaching at Vesta?

There is a great sense of anticipation.

What are the most critical aspects of your job in the next several months in preparation for Vesta arrival?

Making sure the analysis tools are ready for when we receive the data.

What are your leisure time activities?

Spending time with my family—wife and five children.

Do you have a yet-to-be-achieved life goal?

No, I'm quite grateful to have spent >15 years in space & planetary sciences and enjoy each new project.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

At 4 years of age, I watched Jack Schmitt launch for the moon. I then wanted to be an astronaut.

At what point did you determine that you would pursue a career in space science? Tell about the path that led you to this field.

It was suggested that I pursue an advanced degree in physics if I wanted to be an astronaut, which is what I did. While the astronaut goal did not pan out (which is fine), I have continued using my physics education in my current work.

Who inspired you? Why?

Many people from family, friends, and various historical figures (both famous and obscure).

What subjects were you interested in as a young student?

Science, music, history.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?

I don't remember my favorite book as a child, but now I very much appreciate The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. It is an important and sobering book and I re-read it every few years.

What advice would you give to aspiring engineers or scientists?

Develop habits of perseverance. Answers to interesting problems do not always come quickly or easily and one needs patience and perseverance as one does this work.

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