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Rock Star

Plenty of kids want their parents to buy them a bike or a video game. But Gwen Linde had other interests.

“I remember badgering my parents in elementary school until they finally bought me a telescope,” said Linde. “My dad was a musician and he always wanted to get me a trombone or a trumpet but I didn’t want anything do with a trumpet. I wanted a telescope.”

Linde has been interested in science and the physical world since childhood, fascinated by the planets, stars and galaxies. She read books about earthquakes and volcanoes and remembers examining unusual rock formations on hikes with her family.

Decades later, Linde’s passion endures. After 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, Linde returned to college to earn a Master’s degree in geology. Thanks in part to a $10,000 scholarship from Raytheon, she’s now continuing her studies toward a PhD in geology from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her goal is to teach earth science at a college, where she hopes to instill in her students, especially young women, a career interest in science and technology.

An Air Force Childhood

Linde grew up in an Air Force family. Her father served in the U.S. Air Force and was a member of the Air Force band so Linde moved frequently as a child including stays at Langley Air Force base in Virginia, Hamilton Air Force Base in California, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan and Wiesbaden Air Base in Germany. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California in paleontology – the study of prehistoric life – Linde followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Air Force.

In the U.S. Air Force, Linde backpacked, climbed and skied all over the world, in addition to flying more than 4,500 hours. She twice commanded squadrons – one of 700 and another of 350 people – before retiring as a full colonel.

Linde said her greatest joy as a squadron commander was helping young people establish and meet their goals, a calling she hopes to continue as an earth science professor at a college that’s small enough to foster close faculty-student relationships.

Raytheon recently awarded Linde a $10,000 scholarship toward her studies, part of Raytheon’s partnership with Student Veterans of America to support military veterans pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

Linde said the earth sciences are an ideal way to teach science to young adults who might not think they’re able to master science and math, in part because topics like geology are best taught outside, which engages all of the student’s senses and captures their imagination.

“Science has to be hands-on. It could be picking up a microscope and looking at neat things on a slide or lugging a telescope out to the driveway in the middle of the night to look at stars,” said Linde. “Learning to think like a scientist is interesting and fun but it can also help solve challenges -- and help people live better lives. “

Gwen Linde
  • Age: 55
  • From: Stockton, Calif.
  • Active duty: U.S. Air Force 1979-2005
  • Studying: Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno
  • Future plans: Teach earth sciences at a small college