Mark Van Baalen has served the University in a variety of roles since 1962. He received his A.B. in Astronomy in 1966. While an undergraduate he worked on the NASA-funded OSO-D satellite that flew in 1967 and obtained the first successful ultraviolet images of the Sun from orbit. Later, he turned his attention to the Earth sciences, receiving his A.M. and Ph.D. in Geology. Since 1995 he has been a Lecturer and Associate in the Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences. During that time he taught popular courses in physical and environmental geology, and acted as mentor to many undergraduates.
Mark's research has included field-based projects in New England, California and the Swiss Alps, all focusing on details of the origin of ancient ocean basins and their associated mountain belts. His approach has included careful study of mineral assemblages, particularly those containing Titanium, and the conditions under which those rock units were formed. Through a process of serendipity, he has become involved with the subject of asbestos and more broadly, of respiratory diseases linked to inhalation of mineral dusts. More recently he has studied the interactions between human activities and the inexorable process of climate change. In addition to these strictly scientific interests, Mark has a deep interest in history, including the exploration of remote regions of the world.
Mark and his wife Louisa, recently retired from the Kennedy School of Government, have been privileged to lead numerous HAA excursions to distant lands. On these trips, Mark lectures on the natural history of the regions being visited, as well as painting a broader picture of human interaction with its environment, now and in the past.