Missing Pieces to Ocean Puzzles

Laura Landrum, Associate Scientist, Oceanography Section, Climate & Global Dynamics

What influenced you to pursue a career in science?Laura Landrum and Daughter

I love puzzles and figuring out how things work. I was skilled at math and science throughout school – and my career has been a terrific opportunity to apply my skills to solving puzzles. I also really liked college – and figured the next best thing to staying was to get a PhD so that I could return as a professor. In my senior year I went looking for a field – I majored in physics but really wanted to work in a field in earth sciences – and found myself intrigued with the types of questions oceanographers were pursuing. I ended up with a PhD in oceanography, and a strong desire to work in climate research.

Who are you at work and what does a typical workday look like? (Please introduce what you do as well.)

I work as an associate scientist in the oceanography section of NCAR’s Climate and Global Dynamics laboratory. As an associate scientist I get to work on a variety of projects over time. Currently the bulk of my work is focused on trying to understand why climate models do not reproduce observed trends in Antarctic Sea Ice. On any given day I might be designing and running model simulations to test out hypothesis, analyzing results from NCAR’s climate model, piecing together a bigger picture from climate model output from many laboratories, preparing manuscripts or presenting our work at a meeting. Although most of my work at NCAR has focused on sea ice (both Arctic and Antarctic), I’ve been able to work other areas as well including simulations of the Last Millennium and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

Who are you outside of work?

Outside of work I’m primarily a kid wrangler – keeping herd on my 10­ and 11­year old daughters while we bike, hike, Laura and daughters skiingbackpack (summer) and ski (winter) in our free time. As they get older I’m slowly adding playing music back in my life; I played viola and for awhile considered a career in classical music. Now I’m learning banjo and playing a bit of piano again. I also love bringing science to the classroom and regularly visit K­12 schools to talk about science, my work, and climate.

What has been your favorite work­related experience?

Working at NCAR. The quality of work and collegiality of scientists here is inspirational.

The Power of One: If you could thank only one person for academic or career support, who would it be?

That would have to be my grandfather, Robert F. Walters. He was a geologist and has been my intellectual “north star” – active in his field all his life, and constantly learning and curious. He was always curious and well- informed about my work as well.

One-minute mentor

What advice would you offer to someone interested in a career like your own?

A scientific career can be enormously gratifying. It can also be challenging on many levels so follow your passion, hone your skills, and seek work environments and colleagues that work well for you. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are many ways of making a scientific career.

Laura Landrum, Associate Scientist, Oceanography Section, Climate & Global Dynamics