Dr. David Baker

David Baker

Dr. David Baker

Professor of Physics; Physics Department Chair; Adams Observatory Director

Physics / Academic

IDEA Center 167 


B.S. University of Texas at Austin
M.S. University of California, Los Angeles
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

Faculty Bio:

I love to explore extreme stuff on Earth and other planets. With my students, together we have conducted research on giant dust devils that sweep across the surface of Mars, measured extreme precipitation in North Texas, and helped discover a new planet orbiting a distant star. My award-winning book The 50 Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System investigates some of the wildest things in our Solar System, and we are continually finding more!

This sense of intellectual adventure carries over to the classroom. My goal is to create awesome learning experiences for all students, filled with curiosity and authentic inquiry. I also routinely lead adventure-oriented courses to remote places around the world, including Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, and Iceland. By creating these innovative experiences, I hope to help people do things they never thought possible and to help them solve problems they could never foresee.

Recent Courses:

  • Physics for Scientists and Engineers (Workshop Mode)
  • Atmospheric and Environmental Physics
  • Observational Astronomy
  • Vibrations, Waves, and Optics
  • Research Experiences in Physics
  • Statics and Engineering Design
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Global Climate and Extreme Weather
  • The Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System
  • Fire and Ice in the Land of Vikings (May Term to Iceland)
  • Mayan World Adventure (Jan Term to Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico)
  • Science and Culture of Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos (Jan Term)

Research Interests:

  • Planetary Science
  • Observational Astronomy
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth-Atmosphere Interactions
  • Science Education Research


In the News:

  • Interview with KDFW Fox 4 News.
  • Texas Piper Professor
  • Microsoft Partners in Learning Daily Edventures Global Heroes in Education
  • The Princeton Review’s Best 300 Professors
  • Most Creative Teacher in the South, Oxford American Magazine
  • Discovery Channel’s “The Year the Earth Went Wild”
  • Recognition for “The 50 Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System
    • Outstanding University Press Book for Public and University Libraries
    • PROSE Award Honorable Mention in Cosmology and Astronomy
    • Bild der Wissenschaft Readers Choice “Knowledge Book of the Year”
    • Wired.Com GeekDad Gift Guide


See CV for full list of publications and presentations

Selected publications:

Baker D. and T. Ratcliff (2012): Extreme Earth. In Indie Shelves Chapbook Winter 2012, The Last Bookstore Publishing, Los Angeles, 9-12.

Baker D. and T. Ratcliff (2012): Extreme Weather: Nature’s Wrath. Sky and Telescope, V124, N3, 26-31.

Baker, D. (2011): Extreme inquiry-based learning: Engaging non-science students with the WOW factor and science portfolios. In Cosmos in the Classroom: A Hands-on Symposium on Teaching Introductory Astronomy, ed. A. Fraknoi, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 294 pp.

Baker, D. and T. Ratcliff (2010): The 50 Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System. Harvard University Press, Boston, Mass., 304pp.

Baker, R. D. (2007): Teaching, Learning, and Evaluation. In Design Guide for Undergraduate Earth System Science Education, USRA.

Baker, R. D. (2006): Project-based learning, surface energy balance, and establishment of a new undergraduate weather station. J. Geoscience Edu., 54, 320-328.

Drake, N. B., L. K. Tamppari, R. D. Baker, B. A. Cantor, and A. S. Hale (2006): Dust devil tracks and wind streaks in the North Polar Region of Mars: A study of the 2007 Phoenix Mars Lander Sites. Geophys. Res. Letters, 33, L19S02, doi: 10.1029/2006GL026270. (with undergraduate student Nathan Drake)

Baker, R. D., B. H. Lynn, A. Boone, W.-K. Tao, and J. Simpson, (2001): The influence of soil moisture, coastline curvature, and land-breeze circulations on sea-breeze initiated precipitation. J. Hydrometeor., 2, 193-211.

Baker, R. D. and G. Schubert, (1992): Cellular convection in the atmosphere of Venus. Nature, 355, 710-712.

Faculty Extras:

I enjoy hiking, snowboarding, mystery novels, homemade apple pie, and bad TV.