With interest in the ocean sparked by walking the beaches of her native England and an environmental sciences major at the University of Lancaster, Susan Humphris entered the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in 1972. Advised by Geoff Thompson, Susan earned a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography, basing her thesis research on rocks from WHOI’s dredge collection that showed evidence of reactions with seawater at high temperatures.
Following two years on a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College in London, she returned to Woods Hole and spent 13 years with the Sea Education Association, teaching oceanography and also serving as dean for nearly half that time. Susan was appointed research specialist at WHOI in 1992 and was named senior scientist in 1998.
She served as the first chair of the Deep Ocean Exploration Institute from 2000 to 2004 and currently chairs the Geology & Geophysics Department. Her work on the geochemistry of seawater-rock reactions in hydrothermal systems has taken her on more than 30 dives in Alvin and many virtual dives with the remotely operated vehicle Jason in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Susan was a member of the 1986 Atlantis II/Alvin scientific party that made the first discovery of hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic Ocean.
Originally published: January 1, 2005