The secret lives of our profs

Kayla Wilson

Andrew Knudsen is a man with “too many hobbies.” The geology professor and beard-wearer bakes bread, plants vegetables and incorporates his interests into an increasing awareness of living a green lifestyle.
Originally from the Chicago area, Knudsen began his undergrad career at Hamilton College in New York, thinking he would major in government, maybe become a lawyer, and “do the things government majors do.”
However, when his environmental science minor required him to take an introductory geology course, he changed his mind, especially after seeing that they were taking a six week trip to Colorado that spring. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I could go hang out in Colorado for a few weeks. I could do that,'” he said. He changed his major soon after. “I have a joke about this,” he said, “that I just moved down the course list alphabetically, but I couldn’t speak German, so I ended up as geology major.”
Coming from an established line of teachers, a foray into academics seemed like the next logical move. “My life has sort of been a ‘take the option that’s in front of you’ situation,” he joked. “What do you do with a PhD in geology? Well, I guess you teach.” His decision to take his position at Lawrence had a similar feeling, as he explained that with academic jobs you take what is available, adding that it was in the geographical area at which he was looking during his search.
At the moment, Knudsen is continuing his work with senior Jay Dansand looking at contaminated river sediment in the Milwaukee River. They are investigating heavy metal deposits in soil and are planning on submitting their findings to a journal at some point in the late summer. After Dansand graduates, Knudsen will continue his research in this area with junior Claire Gannon. “I’m naturally drawn to environmental issues and research. In Idaho [where he went to grad school], I studied mine contamination, and now I’ve switched to industrial contamination,” he said.
His interest in the environment is something he has had for most of his life, but which didn’t really start to bloom until he went to college. “I’ve learned more and put more things together,” he explained.
He makes it a point to eat as locally as possible, growing some of his own fruits and vegetables, and he and his wife belong to a CSA. Some of this was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” in which she and her family decided to eat only locally grown products.
“It has become one of my bibles,” he said. Knudsen even taught a seminar about bio-fuels, where the class made a batch of their own fuel, which led to the ceremonial pouring of it into his diesel-run Jetta wagon.
Among his many other interests are flyfishing, which he picked up in Idaho, excessive internet usage and running. Last spring, while on sabbatical, he even completed a marathon, while still managing to go to France for a long overdue honeymoon.