Reporting Suzie Suh
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — To Los Angeles TV audiences, Dr. Lucy Jones is known as the earthquake expert.
She’s the seismologist who appears on TV, usually within minutes of a quake, to calm rattled nerves. She tells the audience how deep the quake was, where it was located, the chance for aftershocks. “People are afraid of earthquakes because they make us feel out of control,” she says.
Jones acknowledges that her role is strange. “It’s a weird thing to turn to a scientist for comfort, right?”
Jones, officially a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, recently gave CBS2 a glimpse into her personal life.
You know her as the quake expert. What you might not know: She’s a mother of two and a musician. She speaks fluent Chinese. Jones plays a mean viola de gamba.
A native of Santa Monica, Jones grew up loving music, science and math.
Her father was an aerospace engineer and he played numbers games with his daughter. “You like what you’re good at and I was good at math. I could wipe out everybody else in class.”
Walking through the corridors of the middle school she attended in Westchester, she remembers a brilliant math teacher who also sparked her love for math and sciences. She also recalls her dream of being a physicist who would live on the moon.
Back down to Earth, the only female in her physics classes decided to study geophysics. She wanted to save people from the devastating affects of quakes “instead of building bombs that kill people.”
Jones earned a B.A. in Chinese language and literature from Brown. And while working on her P.H.D. in Geo-physics, she went to China for the first time. It helped that she was fluent. While there, she also met Egill Hauksson, a fellow seismologist.
The couple got their P.H.D’s five days apart. “And we got married three months later,” says Jones.
They returned to the states in the early 80s. And she’s been reporting on quakes in the Southland ever since.
She vividly recalls the time when she was holding a post-quake press conference and holding her newborn at the same time. “My husband literally handed me the baby in the middle of an interview because he would scream if we put him down.”
Jones reluctantly became a symbol of working mothers. “How you can have it all. And how you can’t.”
Her children now grown, she can devote her entire life to the study of quakes. And calming the public.
She’s “grateful” these days for more quiet time. And juggling work and her music. “My father taught me, if you get a job you enjoy, you will enjoy your life.”