Ken Lepper’s passion for our planet and how it works is evident in the fervor he brings to his courses and research. Lepper is a professor of geology, director of the Optical Dating and Dosimetry Laboratory and an adjunct professor of physics.
Lepper teaches Physical Geology, a general education science course, and upper division courses in hydrogeology and geomorphology. He also teaches an undergraduate research course called ChronoQuest. He joined the NDSU faculty in 2003.
• Why is teaching important to you?
Wow! That’s like asking why do you breathe? Teachers throughout my life have been so important and influential to me that I feel like it is an honor to continue the work of teaching. I also like being an underdog and that pretty much describes all teachers in today’s society. I feel like I have done something meaningful when I see a student’s light bulb go on or the gears in their head start to turn. I also think that teaching young adults helps me feel young. Well, youngish.
• How do you try to make a difference in students’ lives?
I know this sounds like pandering, but in my introductory course I try to inspire. I believe that students can see that I truly love the discipline of geology and I enjoy teaching them about it. I want them to know that they can love learning just as much as I do, and it’s okay to feel and show enthusiasm.
I believe my biggest efforts in this area are involving undergraduate students in authentic research projects. I began researching as an undergraduate, and that kindled a fire of scientific curiosity in me that has guided my career and burns strong to this day. I feel it is duty and privilege to extend this flame to other students. It’s very rewarding for me to see that transition in students from learning about science to being a scientist; asking their own questions and following an idea because they want to know, not because it was an assignment.