Meet the New Director

On July 1, 2020 David Fike officially became the Interim Director of InCEES, after serving as Associate Director since 2016. Fike is also director of the Environmental Studies program and professor of earth and planetary sciences. In between planning classes for the fall semester and managing his lab, Professor Fike answered some questions about his journey to WashU and the future of InCEES.

What was your path to becoming a researcher and academic?

I’ve always been curious and excelled in school.  When I learned that I could make a career out of asking and answering questions about how the world works, I was hooked. Being a professor, where I can not only conduct research on answering these questions, but also share my knowledge and experience with the next generation, is the dream job.

You study isotope geochemistry.  Why/how did this field capture your attention?

Almost all natural processes, be they physical, chemical, or biological, impact the various isotopes of different elements in different ways.  This means that isotopic analysis can provide really sensitive ways to document what reactions are taking place in the world and tracing the rates at which they happen. I use these approaches primarily to reconstruct microbial metabolic activity and the evolution of ocean redox conditions over Earth history. However, these techniques can be widely applied in the Earth sciences and across the biosciences, which means there are plenty of exciting problems to keep my curiosity piqued for years to come.

What brought you to Washington University?

There’s an incredibly strong history of isotope geochemistry in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences here at Washington University, with a lot of cutting-edge instrumentation and great colleagues. This was a huge appeal.  Additionally, as someone who works at the interface of the geosciences and biosciences, having a top ranked Biology Department and the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program were clear draws.

You have served as the Assistant Director of InCEES for four years. Now that you are officially at the helm, in what direction would you like to steer the center?I’ve really enjoyed the last few years as the Assistant Director. Looking forward, I’d like to strengthen and expand two of the major foci that we have been developing during this time: the Climate Change Program, especially our participation in the UN Climate Meetings and building a mid-west wide network of partners dedicated to tackling climate change. Additionally, I’d like to focus on our Resilient Cities initiative, which focuses on cross-school collaborations with the city and community partners to improve coupled environmental-social conditions across the St. Louis region.

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