UMSL geologist to hold class among volcanoes

Michael Fix, associate teaching professor of physics at UMSL

A fascination with volcanoes led Michael Fix, associate teaching professor of physics at UMSL, to a career in geology. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Though he wouldn’t call himself a volcanologist, Michael Fix, a geologist at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has been fascinated by volcanoes for decades. As a teenager he constructed a papier-mâché model of the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa atop his parent’s Hibachi, stuffed it full of fireworks and watched the eruption.

Fix calls volcanic eruptions an “inherently interesting phenomena. What can I say? We like things that explode.”

It was Fix’s fascination with volcanoes that in part lead him to take geology classes at St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley after high school. There he was taken under the wing of Professor Bruce Stinchcomb who became a mentor and encouraged Fix to take seriously the natural sciences. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences followed for Fix, and he’s taught geology at UMSL for the past 38 years.

Throughout it all Fix never lost his interest in volcanoes.

It was to Fix’s delight then when UMSL’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies asked him to teach a brand new travel study course this summer. The weeklong course will offer students (and their instructor) an exciting opportunity to study volcanoes on one of the world’s most active volcanic islands in Hawaii.

The course being offered is Geology 1003 and it will allow students to earn 3 credits in the span of one week. During that week students will stay at the Holo Holo inn, right outside of Hawaii Volcano National Park and only 1.5 miles away from the most active volcano in the world.

“The whole island is made up of volcanoes,” says Fix. “The volcano Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, and there’s a good chance we’ll get to see some lava flow, if not some fireworks.”

Amy Dooley with the School of Professional and Continuing Studies says that the course will be of particular interest not only to geology students, but also students in any of the physical or natural sciences.

“Kilauea can have [lava] fountains as big as the Empire State Building,” Fix says. “Where we’re going is one of the few places you can view these kinds of eruptions from a safe distance.”

For more information, call Amy Dooley at 314-516-5045 or stop by the School of Professional and Continuing Studies in 113 Lucas Hall.

“With the interest generated thus far, I think the School of Professional and Continuing Studies is going to be looking into a lot more programs like this,” Dooley said. “It’s going to be really exciting every year.”


This story was written by Ryan Krull, a student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from UMSL.

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