UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

June 2003

Here come 11 more:

NCAR again hires a diverse cadre of young scientists

For the second time in three years, NCAR is rejuvenating its scientific ranks with a large wave of scientist I hires. The 11 new staffers specialize in areas ranging from solar activity to lower atmospheric modeling to marine ecosystems.

The latest hires come on the heels of the class of 10 scientists that NCAR hired in 2001. Advanced Study Program (ASP) director Al Cooper, who played a key role in the hiring process, says to look for still another large class of new scientists within the next year or two. The goal is to infuse the organization with fresh blood and bring on board researchers with diverse interests that often cut across division lines. “This may become a regular feature if we can continue to afford it,” Al says. “In a steady state, you’d like to see 8 or 10 people coming in each year.”

In the middle and late 1990s, the organization hired relatively few new scientists because of tight budgets. As a result, its demographics shifted toward older scientists, a high number of whom were classified as scientist III or senior scientist (a position analogous to that of full professor at a tenure-granting university).

But when Tim Killeen became NCAR director in 2000, one of his top goals was to boost the numbers of young scientists. At the same time, NCAR entered an era of higher budgets as more money started to flow in from NSF, its primary funding agency. To better leverage the funding, Tim and UCAR president Rick Anthes agreed to share the initial costs of the new hires with the divisions that would employ them.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring in people with new ideas, including some of the best people coming out of the universities,” Al says.

This year, as in 2001, NCAR formed an organization-wide search committee that looked for the most promising young scientists, rather than focusing on scientists who could fill specific niches. The search committee recommended a number of candidates to the NCAR directors committee, which includes division and program directors, among others. The committee pared the list to meet the organization’s top needs. The applicants were rated not just by scientific expertise but also by their leadership potential and the breadth of their professional interests.

Top administrators, including Rick and Tim, weighed in on the final decision.

“I am very excited by both the caliber and the diversity of the early-career scientists hired this year at NCAR, and I am grateful to everyone who participated in the process,” Tim says. “We will be looking to this cohort of fearless young scientists to bring new vitality and scientific leadership into the organization.”

Some of the new scientists have already started; others will be joining the organization over the next few months. This class of 11 aside, divisions are continuing to hire an occasional new Scientist I using their own funds. ESIG, for example, recently hired Susanne Moser, a geographer with expertise in coastal flooding who will start work in September.

Following are brief profiles of the 11 scientists hired as a result of the organization-wide search.

Mausumi Dikpati

Mausumi came to NCAR in 1996 as an ASP fellow, after receiving a Ph.D. in solar physics from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India.

As a member of HAO’s Solar Interior and Variability Group, Mausumi’s research focuses on solar dynamo modeling to understand the cyclic evolution of solar magnetic features that have a profound influence on Earth systems. A major contribution in her collaborative research at HAO shows that the meridional (north-south or south-north) flow of plasma across the Sun governs the Sun’s 11-year activity cycles.

Some of her other research interests include studying the motions of electrically conducting fluids and their interactions with magnetic fields in the thin layer of the solar interior just beneath the convection zone, as well as modeling magnetic activities relating to stars.

Louisa Emmons

Louisa has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in physics from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She came to NCAR as a visitor in 1997, then became an associate scientist two years later.

In ACD, Louisa works with the Global Modeling and MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) groups. She focuses on comparing models of chemical concentrations in the troposphere with actual measurements of those chemicals. The goal is to refine the models so they will better represent the atmosphere and to determine where chemicals originated and their impact on tropospheric chemistry. To this end, Louisa is working closely with data from MOPITT and evaluating results from MOZART (Model for Ozone and Related Chemical Tracers).

Louisa’s research interests include studying the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere to remote areas of the globe. She’s also interested in the influence of natural chemical sources, such as lightning, which produces nitric oxide—a precursor to tropospheric ozone, which is an especially damaging pollutant and important climate gas.

Natasha Flyer

Natasha, currently an NSF VIGRE (Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences) postdoctoral fellow in the CU Department of Applied Mathematics, will be based in SCD. She plans to serve as a resource for scientists across different NCAR divisions who need help with applied math and computation mathematics projects. Her long-term goal is to start an applied math program within SCD that will reach out to other NCAR scientists as well as the applied mathematics department at CU.

Some of Natasha’s specific research interests include computational mathematics, mathematical modeling

of atmospheric and oceanic phenomena, and nonlinear waves. She is helping with the mathematics of an HAO project on coronal mass ejections.

Natasha holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in scientific computing and geophysical fluid dynamics. She was an ASP postdoc with SCD from 1999 to 2000. She developed and taught a course in scientific computing at CU, and has also taught calculus for high school teachers and engineers.

Andrew Gettelman

Andrew is currently a project scientist in ACD. He will join CGD to continue his research on water vapor and the radiation balance between the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, with the goal of improving climate models for this region. Water vapor in the region helps set the chemistry of the stratosphere as well as the climate of the troposphere. Its study is important for understanding the greenhouse effect and feedback mechanisms in climate change.

Andrew will also continue work with ESIG on the information divide in climate sciences between developed and developing nations, an outreach project he developed when he came to NCAR in 1999 as an ASP postdoc. His main research interests as an ASP fellow included stratosphere-troposphere exchange, tropical convention and water vapor, and the tropical tropopause. Since 2001 he’s been working with ACD on a project to analyze and improve climate model performance in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Andrew holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington. He has worked in policy for the U.S. Climate Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, both in Washington, D.C.

Thomas Karl

In ACD, Thomas studies interactions between vegetation and the atmosphere. Much of his research focuses on chemicals such as isoprenoids and oxygenated hydrocarbons that are emitted by trees and other plants and have significant ramifications for air quality and climate. Thomas and other researchers are trying to quantify and understand the processes that lead to the emissions of these chemicals (known as volatile organic compounds) and to assess the impact of global change on emission patterns in various landscapes.

To do such research, Thomas has developed a proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometer that works in part by monitoring ions that collide with volatile organic compounds. He also uses eddy covariance measurements to record flux changes of carbon dioxide and other gases.

Thomas has a master’s degree in experimental physics from the Technical University of Graz in Austria and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Innsbruck in Austria. He came to NCAR as a postdoc in 2000.

Joanie Kleypas

Joanie is a marine scientist in ESIG who specializes in the response of coral reefs to climate change. Much of her research has focused on the implications of dissolved carbon dioxide in seawater, which reduces the saturation level of calcium carbonate, the building block of reefs. As the saturation level declines, corals and calcareous algae accumulate less calcium carbonate in their skeletons. As a result, reef building may slow or stop, and the entire ecosystem could become far more vulnerable to erosion or other threats.

Joanie also studies the ecological impact of warming ocean waters, which have been blamed for weakening or killing tropical reefs. She plans to expand her research to look at the impact of climate change on other coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, and how those affected ecosystems feed back to the climate system.

Joanie has a master’s degree in marine science and ecology from the University of South Carolina and a Ph.D. from James Cook University in Australia. She has been at NCAR since 1993, first as an ASP postdoc and then as an associate scientist in CGD’s oceanography section.

Todd Lane

Todd joined RAP in February to continue his research on aviation turbulence. He plans to investigate how clouds and windshear generate turbulence and apply this to aviation safety. A former ASP fellow, Todd has collaborated with scientists from RAP and MMM to research gravity wave generation, convective cloud dynamics, cloud-induced turbulence, clear-air turbulence, and aviation safety.

A native of Melbourne, Todd holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Monash University in Australia. His thesis focused on the generation of atmospheric gravity waves by mountainous terrain and convection.

Before coming to NCAR he worked as a research assistant at the Centre for Dynamical Meteorology and Oceanography at Monash University, where he examined gravity wave drag models, analyzed radiosonde data, and taught math and engineering students.

Shane Mayor

Shane’s association with NCAR goes all the way back to 1989, when he worked as a student assistant in ATD. He was also a visiting scientist in 1995–96 and an ASP postdoc in 2001–02. Shane has a master’s degree in meteorology from Saint Louis University and a Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

In ATD, Shane is developing an eye-safe aerosol lidar. Such an instrument could be used in populated areas with no risk of impairing the vision of people in the area that the lidar is probing with laser pulses (lidars use such pulses to detect atmospheric particles much smaller than those detected by radar). Much of the technical challenge for Shane (and optical engineer Scott Spuler in ATD) is to build a laser transmitter that generates light at the desired wavelength (1.5 microns) and a receiver that can detect the pulses reflecting back from the atmosphere.

Instrument development aside, Shane has a strong interest in modeling, and he conducted large-eddy simulations of turbulence as part of his dissertation research. One of his goals is to help bridge the gap between such models and lidar, using the observations to test large-eddy simulations of boundary layers.

Matthias Rempel

In HAO, Matthias specializes in solar magnetohydrodynamics, with an emphasis on modeling the “overshoot region” at the base of the solar convection zone. The overshoot region is a thin transition region between the solar convective and radiative zones, located about 200,000 kilometers below the visible solar surface. To model it, Matthias has used two approaches: numerical simulations (with HAO’s Mark Rast) as well as an analytical model to explore the thermal structure of this region.

In addition, Matthias is part of a team investigating the stability of toroidal magnetic fields in the solar overshoot region. The team has generalized HAO’s magnetohydrodynamic- shallow-water model for force equilibrium states by balancing the magnetic curvature stress with a jet-like flow within the toroidal magnetic field. This jet-like flow is of interest because it could potentially be observed by helioseismological techniques—opening up the possibility of detecting a magnetic field at the base of the solar convection zone.

Matthias has a diploma in physics from the Georg August University of Göttingen, Germany, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Göttingen. He did most of his Ph.D. and initial postdoc work at the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in Katlenburg-Lindau near Göttingen before coming to NCAR as an ASP postdoc in 2002.

Hector Socas-Navarro

Hector has worked in HAO since 1999, first as an associate scientist and then as a project scientist. Much of his research has built on a thesis he wrote while he was a resident astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands in the middle to late 1990s, where he developed a technique for examining the solar chromosphere. The technique infers the height distribution in the chromosphere of such variables as temperature, velocity, density, and magnetic field. This has shed light on the behavior of sunspots, and Hector was recognized by the Spanish Astronomical Society for producing that nation’s best thesis in astrophysics during 1998–99.

After coming to HAO, Hector developed new codes for the solar community based on his thesis work. Now he is researching chromospheric dynamics and magnetism, hoping to learn about the three-dimensional topology of the magnetic field and how it gives rise to the dramatic processes that are commonly observed as solar activity.

Hector received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from the University of La Laguna in the Canary Islands.

Michael Wiltberger

In HAO, Michael focuses on global magnetohydrodynamic simulations. This involves modeling the flow of energy in and out of the Earth’s magnetosphere—a region that extends from the upper edge of the atmosphere into space and interacts with the Sun’s magnetic field. Filled with plasma (or electrically charged fluid), the magnetosphere plays an important role in the geomagnetic storms that sometimes strike the upper atmosphere after intense solar disturbances, and that disrupt satellites and communications systems.

For this work, Michael uses the Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry global magnetohydrodynamics model. In addition to studying the magnetosphere, he is feeding information into models of the Earth’s upper atmosphere to find out more about the ionosphere and thermosphere, which are affected by the magnetosphere.

Michael has a Ph.D. in space plasma physics from the University of Maryland, where he also got a master’s in physics. He came to NCAR in April from Dartmouth College, where he worked as a research assistant professor.

•David Hosansky and Nicole Gordon

Also in this issue...

“I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help You”

Random Profile: Eric Gilleland

Spring Fling

RAP wins NASA award

Delphi Question: Stolen car

A new rapid-scan radar for fast-changing storms


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