James Carter

“In many ways, Dr. Carter’s professional life is completely intertwined with the history of UT Dallas. He invested so much of his time, energy and talent into the University, and we are better for it. He was a generous colleague and professor who never lost his passion for sparking interest in science within the UT Dallas community and beyond.”

— Dr. Inga Musselman, UT Dallas Provost and
Vice President for Academic Affairs

A pioneering geoscientist and one of UT Dallas’ longest-tenured professors who paved the way for space exploration and student success.

Dr. James Carter was associate professor emeritus and one of the longest-serving faculty members at The University of Texas at Dallas. He joined the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest — which would become UT Dallas in 1969 — as a postdoctoral researcher in 1964.

An expert in lunar geology, Carter gained international renown for his work analyzing moon rock samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions. His research culminated in his invention of lunar regolith simulant — fake moon dirt — which became integral to the testing of special equipment used in future moon missions. Carter’s company, ETSimulants, supplied its product to NASA and other researchers around the world.

A passionate teacher who cared deeply for the UT Dallas community, Carter continued to serve the University long after his retirement in 2008. He enjoyed inspiring student interest in the sciences through physical displays of gems, minerals, fossils and historic geophysical equipment. He established the Geosciences Educational Display Fund endowment to enhance and support such displays in the future.

Carter was also a major proponent of one of UT Dallas’ most unique traditions. Prior to their distribution to recipients at each semester’s Ring Ceremony, UT Dallas rings are housed in a box built by Carter from oak wood reclaimed from the original Founders Building. The box is filled with his simulated moon dirt and space equipment invented by other UT Dallas faculty.

Carter died on Sept. 21, 2019, at the age of 82. Gifts in his honor can be made to the James L. Carter Scholarship/Fellowship Endowment Fund, which supports students pursuing degrees in geosciences at UT Dallas.