Episodes
When Shang-Ping Xie entered middle school in his home town about 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, China had just come out of the Cultural Revolution, the tumultuous political movement launched by Mao Zedong that had dominated Chinese life for a decade in the 1960s and 70s. That was lucky timing and a big turning point for Shang-Ping: If he had been a few years older, he might have been sent to the countryside after graduating from high school, to work on farms and learn about the rural life....
Published 06/08/21
Published 06/08/21
Growing up in South Africa under apartheid, George Philander had to follow a lot of laws that didn't make sense to him, e.g., that he was not allowed to stand in the line for white people at the post office. When he discovered mathematics and science, he was happy to have found a world that was governed by rational and coherent laws."South Africa [...] was a strange place because of the apartheid policies. I basically lived in two worlds that didn’t really intersect. The one was the social...
Published 05/25/21
Suzana Camargo is one of the world’s leading experts on tropical cyclones — a type of storm that includes hurricanes — and their relationship to the climate. When she first started to do research on hurricanes, she thought it was only going to be a one-year project. But life is unpredictable, and so "[...] and then 20 years later, here I am, still doing hurricanes." Suzana's path to the hurricanes had not been a straight one: She began her academic career in plasma physics, and only...
Published 05/11/21
Nadir Jeevanjee is one of those rare people who have both depth and breadth in their skills. He is probably the only person who ever wrote a textbook about tensors and group theory while taking a few years off from grad school to tour with a rock band, and that fact alone should make you want to listen to this interview. Nadir was born and raised in Los Angeles, and when he was 12 or 13, he got obsessed with music, especially with drumming. Towards the end of high school, he joined The...
Published 04/27/21
Fran Moore, an assistant professor in Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, works at the intersection of environmental economics and climate science. She studies the impacts of climate change from an economic and societal perspective — how to quantify these impacts, and also how people and communities adapt.Fran grew up in London, but moved to the US for college, in part because she wanted to do "something a little bit broader" than what continuing her science-focused academic track...
Published 04/13/21
Before Marshall Shepherd was bitten by the weather bug, he wanted to be an entomologist. But as luck would have it (at least for the fields of weather and climate science), Marshall changed his sixth-grade science project from honey bees to weather prediction after he had found out that he was highly allergic to bee stings. That science project marked the beginning of Marshall's passion for weather, which has led him to become professor of geography and atmospheric sciences at the University...
Published 03/30/21
On August 29, 2005, Deanna Hence was aboard a research airplane flying through Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane heading for New Orleans. Thinking back to that day, Deanna remembers feeling both elated and deeply worried at the same time — the scientist in her was excited about the extraordinary data the instruments on the plane were collecting, but she was also aware that the storm's impact on New Orleans would be devastating. This experience made her realize at a visceral level that...
Published 03/16/21
Brian Mapes fell in love with cumulus clouds when he was looking out an airplane window during his first flight, on the way to Iowa to toil in the fields with his uncle. He was struck by their beauty, but also wanted to understand them scientifically.  In particular, Brian got interested in how clouds, which are relatively small, are related to weather systems that are much larger, and which is controlling which, how and to what degree. He took issue with the (then-)predominant idea in the...
Published 03/02/21
Vishal Vasan, an applied mathematician at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore, India, thinks of himself as a “mathematical salesman”, who uses his mathematical tools and expertise to help potential collaborators in other fields. Vishal's particular interest are problems involving partial differential equations,their properties and behavior, and methods for solving them, whether on paper or on the computer. "This is at least my personal view of applied math....
Published 02/17/21
Sulochana Gadgil has had a life-long fascination with the Asian monsoon, the seasonally shifting wind pattern driving the rain storms which are the lifeblood of India's agricultural economy. Born in Pune, she studied mathematics in India and the USA - at Harvard and MIT - before returning to India, where she was a professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore from 1973 until her retirement a few years ago.  Sulochana is one of the world's leading experts on the monsoon, and she...
Published 02/03/21
Deep Convection is back with a new season! Starting next Tuesday, February 2nd, we will release a new episode every other week. In this prologue to Season 2, which was recorded two weeks ago, Melanie asks Adam about his experience making Deep Convection; they look back at the past season and ahead to the upcoming new season. We'll say this much: Season 2 starts in India, and it features 10 wonderful guests who share stories from their lives in and outside of science. Stay tuned! Make...
Published 01/26/21
Melanie Bieli is a special guest in more than one way. She’s the first junior scientist to appear on Deep Convection, having just finished her Ph.D. a year ago; but more importantly, she’s the co-creator and creative director of the podcast. So she has been part of all the previous episodes, silently --- but on this episode you can actually hear her voice. Melanie was born and raised in Switzerland. She did her MS degree at ETH Zurich, in Atmospheric Science, and then spent a couple of years...
Published 07/06/20
For Ed Sarachik, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, science and art have always been complementary but equally important ingredients to an intellectually fulfilling life. When he was a physics major at Queens College in New York City, his art teacher gave him an assignment that would become a formative art experience: Spending hours at the Frick Collection looking at a Vermeer, Ed started to truly see the painting, the play of light and vividness of the scene that a postcard...
Published 06/22/20
Amy Clement, professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, loves the ocean. We are mentioning this because her research may seem to suggest otherwise: Amy has proposed bold and controversial ideas about how the role of the ocean in controlling several modes of variability of the climate system may be smaller than most climate scientists had believed. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon relies heavily on the coupling of the...
Published 06/08/20
Faye McNeill studies aerosols, small liquid or solid particles floating in the atmosphere. Each cubic centimeter of air contains hundreds or thousands of these particles – some of them are natural (e.g., dust from dry regions or salt from the ocean) and others are released into the air by human activity, e.g., by cars or factories that burn fossil fuels. Faye, a professor of chemical engineering at Columbia University, studies how aerosols form and evolve, how they influence climate, and how...
Published 05/25/20
This second part of the interview with Mark Cane picks up where Part I left off – at MIT, in the middle of Mark's PhD. A major focus of the interview is the discovery that made Mark’s career, when he and his student at the time, Steve Zebiak, developed the first dynamical model that could both simulate and predict El Niño events; and then how they ventured tomake an actual real-time prediction, of the 1985-86 event, and then publicized it. That was a bold and risky move, but it paid...
Published 05/11/20
Mark Cane is the center of the “family portrait” of climate scientists that are featured in this first season of Deep Convection. In recognition of his special role, we are going to cover Mark's life in two episodes – this is Part I. Mark Cane is most famous for his seminal work on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon, which will be one of the main topics of Part II. But this conversation starts at the beginning, with Mark's origins in Brooklyn during the age of the Dodgers, before...
Published 04/28/20
Richard Seager is a climate scientist at Columbia University and has been an Englishman in New York for more than 30 years. In this conversation, he talks about what will happen to the tropical Pacific under global warming (and why the climate models are wrong about that), about his passion for jazz and how it once led him to bike home at 1 am in the morning from Manchester to Liverpool after seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra, about the Green New Deal, the power of imagination, and combining science...
Published 04/13/20
Amitav Ghosh's latest book, “Gun Island”, takes its readers on an adventurous journey from the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans to raging wildfires in Los Angeles and to a Venice that is inexorably sinking into the sea. Amitav is one of the most accomplished writers in either India or the US, the two countries in which he lives. In 2018, he became the first English-language writer to receive the Jnanpith Award, India's highest literary honor. Amitav is known for novels such as Shadow...
Published 03/30/20
This is a bonus episode, thrown together quickly, as the coronavirus pandemic is evolving at such a rapid pace that predicting what it will look like in the weeks ahead is incredibly difficult. The guest is Jeff Shaman, one of the world's experts in modeling the spread of infectious diseases. He is a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, but these days he is spending his time less on his research than on...
Published 03/24/20
Why should we trust science? Historian of science Naomi Oreskes has pondered this question for years, and here she talks about the surprising answer she has come up with (hint: it's not because of the scientific method). Naomi, a geologist by training, also talks about her time working for a mining company in Australia, the skepticism she faced as a woman, and how she later fell in love with the history of science. Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard...
Published 03/16/20
Kerry Emanuel is arguably the world's foremost expert on tropical cyclones. A weather weenie already at a very early age, Kerry earned his Ph.D. at MIT in lightning speed (working with the legendary Jule Charney) and started teaching as an assistant professor at UCLA at the tender age of 23. Since then, Kerry has made seminal contributions to the understanding of atmospheric convection and the physics of hurricanes. He has been a professor at MIT since 1981, after spending three years on...
Published 02/22/20
Michela Biasutti studies rainfall in the tropics – when and where it rains, and why. She does this at Columbia University in New York, where she settled down after her scientific curiosity had first led her to move from her native Italy to Seattle. Michela is one of many foreign-born scientists who have managed to build successful careers in the United States and have made the country their home. Adjusting to all the practical aspects of daily life in the United States can be challenging,...
Published 02/19/20