Academics & Research

Scientists featured in fossil conference

During Spring Break, a couple hundred scientists flocked to UH for the third Geologic Problem Solving with Microfossils conference to discuss the various uses of fossils.

Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, the director of UH’s Professional Geoscience Program, welcomed everyone to the four-day event, introducing himself and the program.

“We had over 200 speakers and presenters with people from at least 23 different countries attend. Also we had people from all of the major museums around the world attend as well, such as people from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. and people from the Natural History Museum in London attended,” Nieuwenhuise said.

The various presentations tackled topics such as how fossils affect global warming and how they can be used to date rocks and discover oil and gas.

Originally from South Carolina, Nieuwenhuise has devoted himself to geosciences and teaching. With more than 23 years of geology, management and research expertise at oil companies such as Amoco Corporation and Mobil, currently ExxonMobil, he decided he wanted to get back into teaching.

“My whole life I’ve liked science. I liked chemistry, physics, biology, but I really, really liked biology,” Nieuwenhuise said.

At first, he was inspired as a young child by Jacques Cousteau, a famous oceanographer, to be an oceanographer as well but soon had a change of heart, Nieuwenhuise said.

While working as a geologist in New Orleans. He effectively drilled more than 15 production, exploration and relief wells. He also worked with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Smithsonian Institution.

Nieuwenhuise has also been funded and has worked on several research projects. He has also authored and co-authored many selected publications.

With Nieuwenhuise’s hands in a little bit of everything, he rarely has any down time to do much else, he said.

“I don’t have a lot of spare time. Actually, my last vacation was in July of 2011, and I need to go again. But every now and then, I get a weekend off. I enjoy movies, and I definitely enjoy art. Actually, when I used to work for Amaco, my wife would make me take four-day weekends every now and then, and it was good. We would drag our kids to the different art museums, and it was wonderful,” Nieuwenhuise said.

Over the course of his professional career, Nieuwenhuise has dedicated his life to geosciences and his teachings in it. Though he may not find himself with much down time in between, he said he truly enjoys what he does for the University.

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