Leading researcher Dr. John Baumgardner joins School of Engineering faculty
Baumgardner’s career includes 20 years as a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has developed several innovative computer models, including TERRA, a model for investigating planetary mantle convection and the first 3D spherical code of its kind. TERRA was developed, Baumgardner says, 10 years before experts in the field were predicting that it would be possible.
His research has been applied in many areas, including weather forecasting. In the 1990s, the German Weather Service utilized Baumgardner’s spherical grid methods for its next-generation global weather forecast model. Twenty other countries adopted that model for their own weather forecasts.
But Baumgardner’s true passion is applying science in Christian apologetics. He initially developed TERRA to address the tectonics aspects of the Genesis Flood. He is generally credited with introducing and developing the concept of catastrophic plate tectonics in the context of the flood. He has been earnest in emphasizing the centrality of the flood for a correct interpretation of the earth’s rock record and for a credible defense of the Bible as a whole — Genesis 1-11, in particular.
“I used (my research resulting in TERRA) to gain insight into how that cataclysm (the flood) occurred,” Baumgardner said. “God has called me to work on the flood; it has been my focus now for more than 40 years.”
School of Engineering Dean Dr. Mark Horstemeyer has known Baumgardner for about 25 years.
“As a world leader in computational mechanics, John has been a mentor to me for many years, first when I worked at Sandia National Labs and continuing during my years at Mississippi State,” Horstemeyer said. “I am very, very excited to have such a world leader in computational geodynamics come to Liberty University and help mentor our students in computational methods.”
Baumgardner has no question that God led him to Liberty to pass on his knowledge.
“I jumped at the opportunity to be here,” Baumgardner said, “to be able to mentor students, especially in issues relating to creation and the flood.
“Since arriving, I’ve become even more aware than I was before of the quality of the student body and their level of Christian commitment. That quality and commitment also reflects the level of commitment on the part of the faculty and the administration. I’m impressed with that level of courage and faith. I’m not aware of any institution on the earth like Liberty.”
Baumgardner earned his Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and holds an M.S. in geophysics and space physics from UCLA, an M.S. in electrical engineering from Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University. He also served active duty in the U.S. Air Force at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico.
He hopes that some Liberty students will be inspired to advance his research, which of late involves looking into how sediment was eroded, transported, and deposited on such a massive scale during the flood, as well as computational population genetics.
“I believe scientific principles and engineering expertise can be applied to the issues of origins and earth history to demonstrate in a powerful way that the Bible is trustworthy, especially in those crucial areas,” he said. “My efforts have barely scratched the surface; there are spectacular research opportunities on so many fronts today.”
(Many of Baumgardner’s apologetic resources can be found at GlobalFlood.org.)
Baumgardner believes that all Liberty students should be equipped to speak truth into the culture. He wants to see School of Engineering students use their gifts foremost to honor God and uphold and defend His revelation, and also be innovators and leaders.
“Created in God’s image and drawing upon the insights He has granted to us concerning His creation, as His stewards, we also have ability to create,” Baumgardner said. “As an example, applying technologies now available, we can design and fabricate new materials with astonishing new properties, and be a blessing to our fellow human beings. I am excited about what God has in store for the Liberty School of Engineering and for the entire Liberty community in the future.”