From Earth's oceans to space and back: one ASU professor’s journey


Jason Krell

Transitions are often a part of professional life as a scientist. After moving to Arizona’s Sonoran desert many years ago, oceanographer Susanne Neuer discovered herself facing exciting but challenging changes in her career. Unexpectedly, these changes led her to a new research passion.

Neuer, an Arizona State University School of Life Sciences professor and assistant director of the school’s graduate programs, recently authored an article titled "An Ocean in Space" that was featured in the Association for Women in Science spring 2014 magazine. The issue is focused on stories about career transitions, and Neuer details several transitions during her career.

After moving to Arizona, Neuer said she felt like a “fish out of water,” but the change eventually exposed her to a new research interest: the search for life in the frozen oceans of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Because travel to Europa is impossible, Neuer and her colleagues turned to the Arctic – Earth’s closest environmental equivalent to Europa. What started as an interest in frozen water on a faraway moon turned into another passion – studying the Arctic sea ice ecosystem.

During her time at ASU, Neuer’s scientific interests and research opportunities have expanded in directions she never expected. She continues to research oceanography, arctic ecosystems and astrobiology.

Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Magazine is a publication written by and for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It is a record of women's contributions to the STEM fields and their impact on society. AWIS Magazine has volunteer editors and contributors who help create content themes and concepts. The Central Arizona chapter of AWIS, housed at ASU, provides support for the advancement of women in science through networking, mentoring and continuing education.