Professor Profile: Jim Murowchick

U-News Staff

It’s 6 a.m. on a cold March morning. UMKC Geosciences Associate Professor and Chair Jim Murowchick drives down Missouri Highway 50 in the dark.

Every March, he rises before dawn and drives undergraduate researchers to Jefferson City to present their research to legislators.

One student rides shotgun and asks questions, another listens from a back-row bucket seat.

Murowchick is a full-time professor, principal undergraduate and graduate advisor, interim director of his department, published researcher and councilor to the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, councilor to the Council on Undergraduate Research, father of two and mineral enthusiast.

In his free time, he serves as director to UMKC’s Students Engaged in Artistic and Academic Research program (SEARCH).

SEARCH is an academic program that promotes undergraduate research with financial support grants and formal presentation opportunities.

The annual SEARCH Undergraduate Research Symposium will be held on April 15 in Pierson Auditorium and is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to peek into the life of undergraduate research.

“I’ve always been around minerals,” Murowchick says. “My dad was a chief mineralogist and we traveled all over. When I got to undergrad I was biology.  I switched to geology and did real well.”

When asked how he balances his many positions , Murochick replies, “I’m not sure, but I find that when I’m busy, I am better-focused on what needs to be done.”

The highway’s horizon glows with pink and blue stratus clouds, and Murowchick points out rock formations created by sinkholes.

He tells the students to beware of granite countertops, because they can emit radon.

“Even if someone’s project fails and the student decided they don’t want to pursue research anymore, that’s a success to us,” he said about SEARCH.

Murowchick explains that sometimes students will think they have found their research niche only to discover that they are really passionate about an entirely different topic.

Much of his energy is funneled towards his students’ research and academic success.

Unlike many grant-hungry scientists, Murowchick cares about the time he spends in the classroom.

“There are some profs that are more interested in research than teaching,” Murowchick said.

But he is not one of those ‘profs.’

When they arrive in Jefferson City, Murowchick helps the two students set up their posters on the Capitol building’s third-floor rotunda.

He tells them that he “will be hanging out in the shadows for most of the time.”

He does not take due credit for the research he made possible.

Instead he waits in the wings, watching from behind a stack of papers he is grading.

Occasionally a representative or senator will stop by to quiz Murowchick’s students about their presentations. Murowchick appears and snaps photographs of the student and the legislator conversing.

On the way home, Murowchick stops by his favorite “place with the dollar shakes” in Sedalia and treats the students to a shake.

Jim Murowchick returns to Kansas City around 6 p.m. He said he was tired from a 12-hour day, but he hardly showed it. Both students thank him several times for a wonderful opportunity.

He returns to business as usual the next day.

He doesn’t catch a break or receive release time for doing this sort of thing.  He just keeps doing it.

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