Susan was born and raised in Niagara Falls (Canada). She received an Honours BSc (Earth sciences) in 1975 from the University of Waterloo (Canada). During her studies, she worked for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Inco Metals, and Cominco. After graduation, she joined Inco (Thompson, Manitoba). She returned to the University of Waterloo with her young children in 1980 and completed an MSc in hydrogeology and geochemistry, with part-time work in groundwater consulting. In 1983, on scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada) and from Stanford University (California, USA), she moved to Stanford University for a PhD in civil engineering and chemistry. Following her PhD defense in 1989, she worked as a Maître Assistante in the Chemistry Department, University of Geneva (Switzerland) for 4 years and then for 2 years in the Physics Department at the École Polytechnique Fédérale (Lausanne, France). In 1995, she accepted a lektorship (associate professor) in the Geology Department at the University of Copenhagen (Demark) and, in 2006, she was appointed professor at the Nano-Science Center, where she built a group of 45 physicists, chemists, geologists, mineralogists, engineers and mathematicians, all on research funding. The facilities and expertise of the group were directed toward studying the fluid interface between mineral surfaces in soil, sediments, and rocks. Her projects, with strong support from industry, have always been fundamental research with very direct applications. For example, using nano-techniques to understand nature’s secrets and then applying that new understanding to solve society’s challenges: ensuring clean water, safe storage of waste, removing organic material (oil, pesticides) from mineral surfaces, CO2 sequestration, and discovering the mysteries of biomineralization. She recently moved to the Physics Department at the Technical University (Denmark), where she continues to use high-tech instruments to explore mineral-surface processes. When she is not working, she enjoys backpacking and skiing, her garden, reading, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
After working for several years as an exploration geologist and hydrogeologist, Susan began a foray into what would become a long-term passion: understanding the science of mineral-surface chemistry. She has sought to employ novel techniques (XPS, AFM) to investigate atomic-scale processes occurring at mineral surfaces and, by better understanding these, to develop insights into how these processes impact on mineral transformations and the reactivity of minerals.
Susan has followed a remarkable career, built on her combined experiences, curiosity, and scientific rigor, that has culminated in her both creating and running the Centre for Interface Geochemistry (Switzerland) and the NanoGeoScience Center (Denmark). Throughout her illuminating and most-impressive career, she has not forgotten where she has come from and continues to lead and inspire the next generation.