Li Cheng

After encouraging his son to become a Geological Sciences major at MSU, Bob Drost has paved his own way in the department. While his son has since graduated and now works with as a geologist with an environmental organization, Drost has become a Ph.D. student in Julie Libarkin’s Geocognition Lab.

“I wasn’t necessarily interested in geology,” said Drost about his decision to come to MSU. “[My interests were] more on meteorology, severe weather and peoples’ interactions with weather.” However Libarkin’s lab, which studies how people perceive and understand the earth and its processes, was appealing because of its interdisciplinary features, explained Drost. “[Libarkin] is all over the board in people she collaborates with.” 

Drost’s latest research has focused specifically on people’s reactions to tornado warnings.  The project is multidisciplinary, explained Drost, requiring knowledge about atmospheric science, geology, cognition and social science.

In the fall, Drost presented his findings at the Geological Society of America’s annual conference. He will also give an oral presentation this March at the National Severe Weather Workshop Meeting. Drost is using these meetings to discuss the policy implications of his research: to create more effective severe weather warning systems.

Joining ESPP has only furthered this discussion. ESPP helps him facilitate collaboration between social and natural scientists and understand the policy aspect of science, said Drost. “[The program] is having a positive impact on what I’m doing.”  

Beyond tornado warnings, Drost is planning to expand his research to landslides, floods, earthquakes and volcanoes. “There’s a lot of difference between what to do with a tornado warning versus building your home in a landslide zone,” he said. Drost will pursue this element of personal choice.
A Michigan native, Drost spent 20 years working for General Motors and another six as the owner of a hobby shop and paintball store before coming to MSU. While he and his son have yet to do collaborative research, Drost said that he wouldn’t mind working on a project together in the future.

MSU News story about Drost's research