Badass of the Week: John Priscu

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Department: L.R.E.S Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Professor in BIOB160.
·      Playing lead guitar in “The Textbook Blues” band.
·      Flying airplanes in the backcountry.
·      Racing a red Porsche in free time
·      Riding a Harley Davidson
·      Telemark skiing since 1980.
·      Mountain biking.

What day will you never forget?
There is not just one unforgettable day, there are two. The first is a little more personal than the other — the day my daughter was born 24 years ago. She is now in law school and I am very proud of her. The second unforgettable day is when I led my first winter expedition in Antarctica in 1991. I led this same expedition again in 1995 and 2008.

If you could do anything for a whole day, what would it be?
I want to fly a F22 Raptor Jet, or maybe be the first human on Mars, and I really want to go into space.

How long have you been at Montana State?
I have been a professor at MSU since 1984, and I have enjoyed all 30 years working with my students and staff.

What brought you to Montana State?
After graduating with a Ph.D at UC Davis, and spending two years in New Zealand, I applied for jobs in the western hemisphere and took my job in Bozeman. It gave me a sense of adventure, and an opportunity to build my own program — and wherever I end up, it must have snow.

Why did you decide to teach?
I wanted to teach so others could enjoy the work that I love to do. I like being around inquisitive young people that are always searching out their next move. They really keep me on my toes, and it’s very gratifying to see them succeed and to know that I was able to help them get there.”

What are you researching? How did you get involved in your research? And what is the best thing about being in Antarctica?
I study water — every major lake and river in Montana. I figure out how biology and chemistry interact with the systems of the water. I research the polar systems and climate change. I sample the lakes that have isolated and frozen for tens of millions of years. I have also been trying to prove that life does exist in the ice by drilling into sub-glacial lakes that are under at least 30 feet of ice, and building models of the Arctic Ocean. I research all of those lakes and rivers, because I have always liked water — it fascinated me to know every secret hidden in each small cube of ice.

The best part of researching in Antarctica is the adventure. The adventure in working under intense situations such as blizzards, at temperature no higher than negative fifty degrees Fahrenheit or when we had engine trouble with the helicopter. The other aspect is the science portion – I’ve learned in the last 29 years there is always something new to discover.