Chemistry Related
Canadian astronomer Kim Innanen (left), professor emeritus, York University, visits with his son Kristopher Innanen, UH assistant professor of physics, after speaking at a recent UH Physics Colloquium.

Photo: Professor Irving Rothman
By Susan Hammons
One is a well-known astronomer specializing in the evolution and dynamics of our solar system. The other is making a mark for enhancing ways to detect petroleum targets beneath the ground. But both father and son share an interest in science from a young age.

The son, Kristopher Innanen, is assistant professor of physics at UH. His father, Kim Innanen, professor emeritus, York (Canada) University, spoke at a recent UH Physics Colloquium.

Kim grew up in Canada, where his carpenter father and other immigrants from Finland built the Goose Bay, Labrador, airport, an important stopover for ferrying military airplanes from the U.S. and Canada to England.

“The night skies up in Northern Ontario were spectacular so that I took special interest in the stars and the northern lights. I also formed a basic interest in airplanes because our town was an important lakeside airport for bush exploration, mineral exploration, and hunting,” said Kim, also a longtime licensed professional engineer.

Kristopher recalls a fascination with dinosaurs from well before the time he entered school. And while his parents encouraged him to follow a career of his own choosing, the pair’s academic careers — his mother, Sandra, has a master’s degree in astronomy — seemed appealing, he said, with “the ability to use your brain, meet tremendous people, travel, and be creative while still making a living.”

“My career path has been hugely affected by the scientists I’ve happened to meet over the years who have taken the time to work with and mentor me,” Kristopher said. “Somewhere along the way I started to share the enthusiasm of the many fun, vibrant, and brilliant geophysicists I met.”

The Society of Exploration Geophysicists recently recognized Kristopher with its prestigious J. Clarence Karcher Award for his development of algorithms to locate petroleum targets and create high-resolution pictures of the Earth’s subsurface without any prior knowledge of what lies above those targets.

Among Kim’s most significant scientific contributions likely has been his use of computer models to predict that other planets besides Jupiter harbor Trojan asteroids, which share the same orbit as a larger planet or moon. Mars and Neptune now are known to have at least three each, he said. Other important research relates to his work with co-orbital asteroids, which, for example, follow the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
© University of Houston 2007