UCAR Staff Notes masthead
Home Our Organization Research News Center Education Community Tools Libraries
About Staff Notes
Past Issues
Favorite Photos
How to Subscribe


staff notes header

July - August 2005

Fellowship honors a unique research partnership

John Firor and Judy Jacobsen in October 1999, when John delivered the Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecture at the Boulder Public Library. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

John Firor and Judy Jacobsen stress the importance of hope in the book The Crowded Greenhouse, the climax of their work together as scientists and spouses. "Reach deep, dig into your most profound beliefs about how the world works and how you fit into it, mourn the sorrows and the losses," they write. "Then get back to work, with joy."

A solar physicist by training, John joined NCAR in 1961 and was the organization's second director. Judy was a world expert on population and consumption and chaired a task force on sustainable development for former President Clinton.

The couple's work together was cut short by Judy's untimely death in 2004. To keep their legacy alive, NCAR has established a permanently endowed postdoctoral position, the John W. Firor and Judith E. Jacobsen Postdoctoral Fellow, to stimulate research at the intersection of climate science and population theory. Fellows will be based in ISSE, where they will design and conduct their own research projects in collaboration with ISSE scientists and other experts. During their two-year terms, they'll address public policy concerns by participating in forums and seminars and, on occasion, presenting lectures at NCAR and on Capitol Hill.

The fellowship honors the human touch of its namesakes as well as their achievements, says Cindy Schmidt, director of the UCAR Office of Government Affairs.

"John and Judy have made a difference in countless lives through their compassion and dedication," she says. "We hope that this new fellowship will help produce scholars with the same ability to address global issues while connecting and communicating with people on a meaningful level."

John, director emeritus of NCAR and a senior scientist in ISSE, was recruited by Walter Orr Roberts, the organization's first director. Along with his own research in high-energy astrophysics and radio astronomy, John helped found ASP, whose graduate and postgraduate fellowships have launched hundreds of careers in the atmospheric and related sciences. He later shifted gears to become one of the first scientists to convey the risks of human-induced climate change to the public and policy makers.

Judy began her career with a law degree. She then joined the Worldwatch Institute, where she tracked global trends in population and consumption. She headed the group Zero Population Growth and developed a population policy for Nigeria through the U.S. Agency for International Development. She went on to earn a doctorate in geography at CU-Boulder and join the faculty of the University of Wyoming.

As a result of their influence on each other, John and Judy developed a new perspective on the intertwined challenges of climate change and population pressure. In The Crowded Greenhouse, which they wrote together and published in 2002, the couple argues that two revolutions are needed to address population and climate change: a social revolution that improves equity, particularly for women, and a technical revolution that extracts far greater efficiency from Earth's finite resources.

The fellowships will begin as soon as core funding is established, perhaps as early as 2008. Those working to build the endowment, including friends and family members serving on the fellowship's campaign committee, hope to stimulate a wave of innovative thinking on problems that too often seem intractable.

by Bob Henson and Nicole Gordon

Also in this issue...

A global view

Six new senior scientists named

SOARS marks 10th anniversary

Engaging science students

Pedaling for a cause

New SERE center emphasizes climate education

Fellowship honors a unique research partnership

HAO moves to CG1

Just One Look


Staff Notes home page | News Center