Grad Year: 2008
Grad School: Temple University
"I always wanted to understand how the entire universe works," says Houghton graduate Kirby Runyon. His curiosity about the universe is being satisfied in his current pursuit of a master's degree in planetary geology at Temple University, where is he is working with data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Kirby uses NASA's data to study particular aspects of geology on Mars. "Cracks in the ground may sound boring," says Kirby, "but they're crucial for controlling how groundwater can flow to the surface."
Kirby began his college career at Spring Arbor University, a Christian college where both of his parents taught. He enjoyed his time there, but wanted more than the minor in physics offered by the university. "I was too curious about the universe! I had to major in science and specifically physics." He transferred to Houghton and spent his next few years pursuing a bachelor's degree in physics.
Although it was initially the scientific aspect of Houghton that brought Kirby to the college, he notes the overall academic challenges that Houghton offered. "Grad school has been easier than Houghton so far!" says Kirby, grateful for the ways in which Houghton prepared him for grad school. Looking back he especially appreciates the mentoring he received from Dr. Mark Yuly. "He had high expectations for us and matched that with great teaching and classroom/curriculum management and the ability to patiently explain difficult concepts and mathematics to us," says Kirby. He recalls how his academic life and spiritual life intersected when Dr. Yuly "always prayed at the beginning of every class."
Once he was able to experience all Houghton had to offer academically, Kirby eventually began to value other aspects of Houghton. "I enjoyed the spiritual, social, and academic environment: it felt right," he says. He particularly appreciates the relationships that developed throughout his time at Houghton. "I'm three years out of Houghton, and the folks I spent many a late night with in the physics office are still my closest friends," remarks Kirby. "Close Christian community is not to be taken for granted."
Whether he's talking science and religion, hanging out with his wife, or studying other planets, Kirby values how his time at Houghton allows him to do the things he loves. He remarks, "It's quite literally a dream come true, getting to work on a current NASA mission that's exploring the solar system."