Jim Crowell, BS in Earth and Space Exploration (Exploration Systems Design), 2012

Jim smiles while wearing a heavy coat and hat in a snow-covered Greenland scenery.

Founding father of ASU’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), Jim Crowell has made his mark on SESE. His fellow students and friends recognize his formation and subsequent leadership of this chapter-based, space exploration organization as one of the most unifying eras in SESE’s short, but mighty history. Some of Jim’s peers note that for them, it was under Jim’s leadership of SEDS, that a clear sense of community was created within SESE.

As an undergraduate alumnus and current doctoral student, Jim recently took home the gold at the Southwest Regionals of FameLab, the international competition for new science and engineering communicators. He will go on to defend his winning title at the organization’s U.S. National Championship in May.

We had the chance to sit down with Jim and ask him some questions about his love of space, experience at SESE and in particular, what he would say to students who may be following in similar footsteps.

SESE: When you were growing up, what drew you to Earth & space exploration?

Crowell: I've always been enamored with space. My mom told me a couple years ago, “Ever since you found out what it was, being an astronaut is all you've ever wanted to do.” From an early age, my dad would take me and my siblings camping, and I couldn't get enough of the sky and what was happening around all those stars. The vastness and the beauty of it is unlike anything else on Earth. Combine the sheer awe-inspiring beauty with the incredible sense of adventure, how could you not love it?

SESE: How did you choose to come to ASU?  

Crowell: I've always been determined to be an astronaut, so when I was in high school, I was set on going to the Air Force Academy, but my parents encouraged me to explore my options. When looking through ASU's degree listings, I came across SESE, which was pretty new at the time, and the description sounded like exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to follow the scientist route and am so happy I did.

SESE: Is there a particular faculty member at ASU who was influential and in what way?

Crowell: SESE is full of tremendous faculty! That's one of the great things about the school, but if I had to narrow it down, I would have to highlight Mark Robinson and Alberto Behar. Mark Robinson was an incredible boss. He always motivated me to do great work and not settle for less, and I was always assured that he cared about me and had my best interests at heart. Alberto Behar also had a tremendous impact on my life. He taught me countless things about technology, polar exploration, space exploration, field work, and life in general. We were both very similar. He would often joke that I'm him twenty years ago. His mentorship meant everything to me.

SESE: In your opinion, what makes ASU, and SESE in particular, stand out?

Crowell: The devotion to interdisciplinary collaboration. I think that is crucial. It is extremely valuable, yet it is so very often overlooked. I came to ASU interested in astronomy, then I had a taste of planetary geology, and then I was able to try my hand at developing technology. Where else can you find a place that encourages such interdisciplinary work and also does it so well?

SESE: What advice do you have for students who may be following a similar path?

Crowell: Be kind to people! Figure out what you really want from life. When you think of yourself at the end of your life, what are the one or two things that you will have wished you had achieved by then? Figure that out, then go after it. Do things outside your comfort zone, and stay focused on the long-term.