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Special Spotlight Insert

Chermak finds personal riches in career change

By Steve Carr

Janie Chermak and ZoeWhen Janie Chermak decided upon a career change, it led her to find riches combining her training in geology and economics. It gave her an enjoyable and rewarding balance combining time in the field as a researcher and in the office.

“I started out as a uranium geologist and switched over to oil and gas,” said Chermak, associate professor, economics.

“I was always out in the field. So I switched to oil and gas and found that after a few years, I was never in the field and always in the office – and neither one of those was very good.”

Some “interesting accounting procedures” that went on in some of the businesses Chermak had worked for inspired her to get more economics and business training. That, coupled with the oil and gas bust in the 1980s, made it desirable for her to switch careers.

“I started taking a little bit of economics and found I really liked it and that I could combine economics with my geologic training so I could do a lot of interdisciplinary work,” she said.

Chermak received a Ph.D. in mineral economics at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in 1991. She also received her master’s in mineral economics at CSM (1988) and bachelors in geology from Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., in 1979.

She classifies herself as a ‘natural resource economist’ with a strong interest in combining economic models with physical science models.

“We have some nice research projects going on,” Chermak said. “There are several of us involved with a research project the National Science Foundation is funding through the University of Arizona and the Science and Technology Center, which is an interdisciplinary center that combines the physical sciences of groundwater, surface water, snow morphology and the social sciences of economics to try and come up with models that really allows us to assess policy.”

The project name is SAHRA or “Sustainability of Semi-arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas.” It began in 1998 for five years with a possible renewal for an additional five years.


“In a way, I don’t know if I can really classify my research as work. It’s also one of those things I do as an activity.”
— Janie Chermak


When she’s not busy figuring out ways to preserve our natural resources, Chermak enjoys reading, gardening, and is currently in the process of revamping her front and back yards with xeriscape. When time permits, she travels. She’s also an avid runner who typically gets up early in the morning and jogs five times a week near her westside home.

“I run as a hobby and that’s a keep myself sane type of activity,” she said. “The westside is a gorgeous place to run. There’s some open space and if you really start looking there’s just an amazing number of petroglyphs on my running trails.”

Chermak used to run competitively, but since moving to New Mexico eight years ago from Monterey, Calif., she has not found the time.

“I need to get back into it though,” she added. “I used to run marathons and 10K’s. I also used to do team triathlons and things like that.

“This is a terrible thing as an economist. We are always teaching people to do anything that will optimally have marginal benefit being equal across their activities. I’m not sure I do that. I tend to work an awful lot and I tend to enjoy my research."