Dr. Helper received a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in geology from the University of Illinois. As a Distinguished Senior Lecturer, his main duties are teaching-related. He teaches undergraduate courses in Field Geology, GIS and GPS Applications in the Earth Sciences, and Gems and Gem Minerals, and lectures and leads field trips for other undergraduate and graduate classes.

Areas of Expertise

Dr. Helper is a field geologist, a generalist whose interests span igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology, tectonics, mineralogy and planetary field geology. His current research explores geochemical and isotopic similarities of Proterozoic and Archean crust in East Antarctica and the southwestern U.S., the Precambrian geology of Texas, and the origin of epidote blueschists in the Klamath Mountains of northern California. Recent senior honors theses under his supervision have examined the mineralogy of Texas topaz, hydration and textural patterns in Balmorhea blue agate, and the distribution and origin of joints in the Hueco Tanks syenite. Working with NASA colleagues, he is also involved in analog planetary field research that examines the utility and efficacy of robotically gathering field data, both as a prelude to and follow-on to human geologic field work on the Moon and Mars. As co-chair of FEAT (Field Exploration and Analysis Team), he helped develop a new curriculum for the geological field training of astronauts and currently co-leads NASA's astronaut field geology training exercises. He also teaches field mapping techniques to NASA engineers and scientists who are developing capabilities for exploring the surface of asteroids, the Moon and Mars.


Research Locations



Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (2011 - 2012)

Jackson School Outstanding Educator Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (2011)

Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (2007 - 2008)

Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (2004 - 2005)

Distinction in Teaching Award - Phi Beta Kappa Alpha of Texas (UT Chapter) (2004)

Faculty Excellence Award - Houston Oil & Minerals Corp. (2002 - 2003)

Teaching Excellence Award - College of Natural Sciences (2001 - 2002)

Research Grant Award - Extension to Geologic Studies in the Shackleton Range, Coats Land, and Dronning Maud Land, E. Antarctica: A North American Connection (with I. Dalziel, W. Gose) - National Science Foundation (1996 - 1997)

Honorary Scholarship Award - American Federation of Mineralogical Societies (1996)

Antarctic Service Medal - US Department of Defense (1995)

Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (1994 - 1995)

Research Grant Award - Geologic Studies in the Shackleton Range, Coats Land and Dronning Maud Land, E. Antarctica: A North American Connection (with I. Dalziel, W. Gose, N. Walker) - National Science Foundation (1992 - 1997)

Research Grant Award - Rb-Sr,U-Pb, K-Ar Geochronologic study of the Condrey Mountain Schist, Klamath Mountains, N. California and SW Oregon. - National Science Foundation (1987 - 1989)

Shell Graduate Student Fellowship - Shell Oil Company (1983 - 1984)

ARCO Graduate Student Fellowship - Atlantic Richfield Corporation (1982 - 1983)

Field Research Grants - Geology Foundation, Univ. of Texas at Austin (1981 - 1983)

Penrose Research Grant - Geological Society of America - 1981)

Panelist, NSF Grant Review Panel, National Science Foundation (2012)

Co-leader/Field Instructor, Astronaut training in field Geology, New Mexico and Arizona, NASA, Johnson Space Center (2010 - 2012)

Panelist, NSF Grant Review Panel, National Science Foundation (2010)

Instructor, Astronaut and NASA personnel Geologic Field Training, Los Alamos, NM, NASA, Johnson Space Center (2009 - 2011)

Invited Participant, Texas Consortium for Higher Education, Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, Lunar and Planetary Institute, University Space Research Association (2009 - 2012)

Theme Session Co-chair, Lunar Field Exploration Equipment and Sample Documentation, American Association of Professional Geologists (2009)

Panelist, NMAMA Grant Review Panel, NASA (2008)

Science staff, Operational Reconnaissance Testing of K-10 rovers and geological EVA planning, NASA Ames Research Center (2008 - 2010)

Invited Participant, Workshop on Astronaut Geologic Training Curriculum Development, NASA, Johnson Space Center (2008 - 2009)

Invited Participant, Workshop on Apollo astronaut geological training, NASA, Johnson Space Center (2008)

Field Geology Instructor, Astronaut and NASA personnel Geologic Field Training, Gila Bend, AZ, NASA, Johnson Space Center (2008)

Co-convener/Session Co-chair, The role of field geology and geophysics in the return to the Moon, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting (2008)

Co-organizer/Co-leader, Precambrian of the Llano Uplift Field Trip, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting (2008)

Invited Participant, Lunar Surface Site EVA Planning Workshop, NASA (2008)

Session convener/Co-chair, Lunar Exploration Advisory Group (LEAG) Biannual Meeting, NASA LEAG (2007)

Co-organizer and Field Instructor, Field Conference on Best Practices for Geologica Field Work, NASA Advisory Council, Arizona State University (2007)

Co-chair, Lunar Field Exploration and Analysis Team (FEAT), FEAT (2006 - 2012)

Committee Member, Human Exploration of Mars Science Advisory Group (HEM-SAG), NASA HEM SAG (2006 - 2007)

Reviewer/Question writer, Geology Graduate Record Exam, Educational Testing Service (2001 - 2002)

Co-organizer/Co-leader, Field Trip: Geology and historical mining, Llano Uplift Region, central Texas, Austin Geological Society (2000)

Co-convener/Session Co-chair, Symposium on Mesozoic Geology of the Klamath Mountains, Geological Society of America Cordilleran Section Meeting (1992)

Session Chairman, Klamath Mountain Geology, Geological Society of America Cordilleran Section Meeting (1986)

Session Chairman, Klamath Mountain Geology, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting (1986)

Reviewer, GSA Bulletin, American Mineralogist, Journal of Geology, Journal of Metamorphic Geology, Applied Spectroscopy, Tectonics, Advances in Space Research, Geological Society of America, Mineralogical Society of America, American Geophysical Union (1986 - 2012)

Distinguished Senior Lecturer, 2007, Department of Geological Sciences, UTA

Senior Lecture, 2000-2006, Department of Geological Sciences, UTA

Lecturer, 1985-2000, Department of Geological Sciences, UTA

Astronauts, Robots and Rocks: Preparing for Geologic Planetary Exploration, UT College of Natural Science Environmental Science Institute, Austin, TX (2011)

GIS Analysis of Antarctica Beneath the Ice and Effects of Ice Removal and Isostatic Rebound, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Geoscience Education Division, Minneapolis, MN (2011)

Spatial Analysis - An Antarctic Example, National Science Foundation Cutting Edge Workshop Using GIS and Remote Sensing to Teach Geosciences in the 21st Century, Bozeman, MT (2010)

Geologic Mapping in the 21st Century, Austin Geological Society, Austin, TX (2005)

Geological Exploration of the American West, 1868-1880: The Great Western Surveys, Freshman Seminar, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (2004)

Isotopic provinces and Mesoproterozoic tectonism in the Shackleton Range, Antarctica: comparisons with Mojavia, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Reno, NV (2000)

True Gems: Origins and Identification, Evironmental Science Instititute, College of Natural Sciences, U. Texas Austin, Austin, TX (2000)

Testing S.W.E.A.T: Were Antarctica and the SW US once contiguous?, Baylor University, Waco, TX (1999)

Tectonic significance of Early Cretaceous blueschists in the northern Klamath Mountains, California, Baylor University, Waco, TX (1992)

Age, origin and tectonic significance of greenschists and blueschists in the Condrey Mountain Window, Klamath Mts., N. California, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX (1992)

Deformational, metamorphic and isotopic age constraints on the origin of the Condrey Mountain Schist: An inlier of Franciscan in the Klamath Mountains?, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA (1989)

General Opportunities in Field and Laboratory Based Studies (Graduate or Undergraduate)
My position does not permit sole supervision of graduate student theses, but I co-supervise or serve on graduate student theses committees, particularly those involving aspects of GIS, GPS, structural geology, tectonics and petrology/mineralogy. I have supervised several undergraduate student honors thesis, both lab- and field-based, and look forward to continuing to do so.