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MEET: Dru Smith

Chief Geodesist, National Geodetic Survey

As the Chief Geodesist, I share responsibility with other agency leaders for the policy decisions of the National Geodetic Survey (NGS).  I am responsible for the oversight of all NGS science projects and the approval of its publications.  Lastly, as an advisor to the NGS Director, I provide vision and leadership on improving the agency as a whole.

Dru Smith


What do you like most about working at NOS?

The best part about working at NOS is the working environment itself.  Despite the requisite bureaucracy that comes with working for the government, this is a science agency, and the working environment almost always comes down to "doing good science."

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is attempting to keep up with the latest technology and research associated with all aspects of my agency.  I was originally hired as a researcher, and was able to focus deeply on one subject at a time.  As chief geodesist, I am now required to be a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

What is your educational background?

I received my bachelor of science in land surveying from The Ohio State University (OSU). I hold a master’s and a PhD in gravimetric geodesy, also from OSU.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I was inspired to work at one of the few agencies where I would be able to study the gravity field.  However, my research led to actual applications, specifically the determination of accurate heights, which are of particular concern to coastal communities.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I was recruited at the end of my master's degree, but did not actually join NOAA until four years later, when I'd finished my PhD. The National Geodetic Survey was one of the few places where I could directly apply my graduate studies to real-world applications, so working for NGS was a matter of finding a rare job to fit my rare field of study.

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

Go to graduate school! And do not be afraid to reach out to the scientific community as you go through your studies. Most agencies are interested in finding new, high-quality employees, and like to know who is "coming up" through the academic chain. You may find yourself being actively recruited!