Scripps a Natural Fit for New Professor of Practice


In naming its first “Professor of Practice” (PoP), a faculty position created for a person outside the norms of academia, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego landed a seasoned professional with decades of experience in geophysics and planetary science from an industrial and business perspective.

In accepting his first position since departing the business world, Len Srnka returned to his academic and research roots, first planted during his days earning his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (now Newcastle University) in England. After receiving his Ph.D, Srnka worked at the Lunar Science Institute in Houston as a postdoctoral fellow and as a staff scientist.

“Scripps was a natural place for me to land after my retirement this June, which some might call my ‘encore’ career,” said Srnka, who is based in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Physics and Planetary Physics at Scripps. “I’m really honored to have this new position designed for someone outside of the academic world.”

Srnka’s core research area at Scripps will include geophysical data analysis methods and data interpretation to investigate subsurface properties of the earth and other planets, as well as new advancements in electromagnetics research.

By design his position will venture into other areas as well. For example, Srnka plans to leverage his experience in the corporate sector to help Scripps foster ties to industry.

“There are lots of companies that should be interested in forming better links with Scripps,” said Srnka. “Some businesses don’t seem to realize what Scripps’s expertise can do for them.”

In a career that included 34 years in various positions at ExxonMobil, Srnka never strayed far from academia and government geoscience. Whether it was serving on National Science Foundation panels, reviewing proposals, or working on external faculty advisory boards for universities, Srnka admittedly has kept a “toe” in the academic world—and sometimes even a “foot.”

During his time in industry he nurtured a long and fruitful relationship with Scripps scientists, starting with Chip Cox in the 1980s. In the late 1990s he began collaborating with Steve Constable on instrumentation and surveys for marine electromagnetics (EM) research.

“Len is internationally recognized as a leader in the development of marine electromagnetic methods within the exploration industry, and his expertise will add considerable strength to the EM group at Scripps,” said Constable. “However, he has also worked over a much broader range of geophysical methods, such as seismic reflection, gravity, magnetics, signal processing, and so on, and will be able to contribute to a number of other research groups at Scripps. We are very excited to have him as the first Scripps Professor of Practice.”

Srnka also has interests in teaching at Scripps, taking advantage of his many years of teaching experience in the corporate sector. He’s already contributing his business savvy to an effort aimed at enhancing Scripps’s master’s programs in geoscience by incorporating more applied geophysics.

“Scripps’s first PoP appointment capitalizes on our strong ties with the energy resources industry,” said Cathy Constable, former interim director and a professor of geophysics at Scripps. “Many of our students go on to careers in energy exploration and Professor Srnka’s appointment brings new opportunities for them to acquire relevant knowledge about practical research issues.”

“Scripps is a natural fit for me,” said Srnka. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to working with the rest of the faculty at Scripps.”

-- Mario C. Aguilera

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