Rajeev’s passion fuels his teaching

Dr. Rajeev Nair standing in front of lava

If you ask Rajeev Nair, Teaching Professor in the Department of Earth, Energy, and Environment, starting an undergraduate degree in Earth Science at University of Calgary is the ultimate combination of curiosity, creativity and complexity. For him, it offers the pursuit of certainty and logic while imagining possibilities.

Rajeev’s passion for earth science has drastically altered the course of his life. As a pre-med undergrad at University of Kerala, he was following his parents’ wishes and pursuing a career as a doctor or engineer. He took a single geology course and that altered everything. In that course he discovered a true fascination and a passion for earth sciences that has led him to Calgary, one of the top destinations of Earth Science professionals. And took him on a journey of personal change.

In the courses he teaches, Rajeev is eager to help students find the spark to explore the natural world and be leaders in science and society. It’s a definite possibility as, unlike other programs, many undergrads in Earth Science have opportunities to participate in advanced research projects around the world. Rajeev says 95 percent of the undergrad students he refers to research groups go on to something bigger in the field – studying volcanos in Hawaii, developing critical paths for natural disasters or digging into the science of natural processes that produce rocks and its resources.  He says these students are as much trying to solve problems as they are trying to complete assignments.

Dr. Rajeev Nair

This is different than other places, than other faculties,” he says. “Earth Science is a very different perspective on science. It’s essentially the application of the fundamentals of physics, biology, chemistry and math, but applied for society’s benefit."

Dr. Rajeev Nair

Rajeev believes our world needs as many people who can apply scientific logic as possible. Through conversations and creativity, his students learn to use information to confront uncertainties. They’re looking at data, completing research, advancing knowledge and learning to apply critical thinking to complex challenges. Real world experiences like a field course Rajeev runs in Hawaii studying volcanos, helps students take concepts into reality.

At a typical meeting between student and professor, Rajeev is asking the student to describe their passions and interests. He’s asking them for their personal reasons for being in Earth Science - their “what?”, “how?” and “why?”. He’s asking them to look around, to connect the dots because, as the world moves from what he calls a “fuel-intensive society to material-intensive society,” Earth Scientists will continue to be in demand and at the forefront of the transition. So, what fuels that student’s drive to pursue this particular path? Answering that question is the spark that will have them imagining the possibilities, that can lead to both personal and societal change.