Meet: Dr. Anthony Colaprete
Planetary Atmospheric Scientist
NASA Ames Research Center
Who I am and what I do
I build computer models of planetary atmospheres, and design instruments
that make measurements. Current efforts are toward the NASA Ames Mars
general circulation model (GCM), a 3D dynamical model that simulates
Martian weather and climate. Specifically, I am working on how to include
clouds and dust into the CGM. I also am a co-investigator on a proposed
Mars mission called Pascal. Pascal consists of 18 individual probes
that land all over the Martian surface. As a co-investigator I am in
charge of developing a digital camera that will take pictures of the
Martian surface during probe descent.
Areas of expertise
How I first became interested in this profession
I think I've been interested in nature and ecology from the
time I was born. As a kid, I was happier running around the woods than
sitting at home in front of a TV. My father introduced me to space science
and engineering early with at-home experiments we would perform together.
By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to be involved in the
space sciences. Later in college I realized that I could bring my love
for nature and space together by studying the nature of other worlds.
What helped prepare me for this job
I think all that time I spent running around in the woods helped me the
most. While in the woods I would sit and watch how things worked together,
how the forest was composed of lots of parts that made a system. Watching
the natural system of the forest taught me to observe other systems
and recognize trends, relationships, and causalities. That is my strongest
attribute and helps me every day as I look at data from Mars or Earth.
Of coarse I studied a lot (something I was never very good at) and
that helped me build the tools that I use every day at work.
My Role Models or Inspiration
There were many. First was my father. When I was about 7, he and I cut
a battery in half to figure out how it worked. (My father is an engineer
and knew how to do this without anyone getting hurt!) My wife is a huge
source of motivation for me and makes me realize just how wonderful and
amazing the entire universe is. Luckily my thesis advisor had enough
faith in my abilities to let me make some really good mistakes! He always
helped guide me but still let me go off exploring my own crazy ideas.
My education and training
- B.A., Physics, University of Colorado, 1992
- M.S., Ph.D.,
Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Science, University
of Colorado, 2000
My career path
- 10 years at Colorado Space Grant College--design,
and flight analysis of instrumentation on shuttle and satellite missions.
years at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics--aerosol
modeling for Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor.
What I like about my job
Being a planetary scientist is like being a storyteller. You get to come
with new stories or ideas about how a planet works. My job combines modeling
with measurements, which lets me work with instruments as well as missions
to other worlds.
What I don't like about my job
Sometimes there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done that has
nothing to do with science. That’s a drag.
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
Develop the tools needed to be a scientist early on! If you know your
math and physics, it frees up your time to think about the real problems.
Learn to observe and ask questions. All science starts with an observation,
an idea or a question.