I spent last week doing some research at another university here in Texas. The scientists I was working with are both amazingly active in education, outreach and promoting minorities in research and the sciences. As such, they are dedicated to helping their former students in thier future careers and write many letters of recommendation for students going on to grad schools and jobs in the private sector.
All of the above is not necessarily new or surprising--it's part of a professor's job description--but it was so inspiring to see how they, a husband and wife team, put their beliefs and passions into actions. The have successfully created a working model for exciting inner-city youth and minorities about science and geosciences. For instance, in their former home in New Orleans, they partnered with their university to begin a project searching for illegal slave graveyards using shallow geophysical techniques. Such an amazing example of how science can be made accessible and interesting to a population that is so often overlooked.
In their new home in west Texas, they are teaming with local high school students and undergraduates to search for tunnels dug by Mexican immigrants under fences and rivers along the US-Mexican border.
I think the most inspiring aspect of these projects is not only getting young people and underserved minorities interested in geosciences and sciences in general, but introducing future scienctists to the importance of using techinical expertise and scientific knowledge in order to serve society.....definitely ideas to carry with me as I build my own research career.