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Originally from England, Roger Smith earned a Ph.D. in physics and has conducted field observations in remote settings in both the Arctic and Antarctic. He came to Alaska in 1984 to work at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he conducted research on and taught courses about upper-atmospheric dynamics and auroral dynamics at high latitudes by optical methods. He served as director of the Geophysical Institute from 1999 until his retirement in 2011, when he became Emeritus Professor of Physics at UAF. In 2000, he participated in the morning and afternoon storytelling sessions at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.