A Fascination with Nature's Patterns

Matt Long, Scientist

What influenced you to pursue a career in science?Matt Long

As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by patterns in nature. I grew up spending time in mountains and forests and always venerated wilderness, so I wanted to do something relevant to conservation. As I learned more about Earth's history I became fascinated with self-organizing systems. Life evolved on this planet, arising from inorganic substrate to develop order; ultimately, life has fundamentally changed the character of the planet. For instance, the evolution of photosynthesis, a neat biochemical trick, resulted in the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere. Amazing! In college, I began to learn how to apply mathematics to simulate the physical environment and ecosystems. I was hooked.

For me science is fulfilling on three levels. First, it provides an avenue to explore my curiosities about how the world works. Second, it is relevant: science creates actionable knowledge, but also enriches society by providing perspective on the world in which we live. Finally, and perhaps most relevant to my daily activities: it's fun. I get to work on and solve interesting problems that range from big-picture concepts to puzzling over details in bits of computer code. I am always learning and I find that satisfying.

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

I am a scientist in the Oceanography Section of the Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory. Mostly I work on the development and application of the Community Earth System Model to problems related to climate and ocean ecosystems. I spend a lot of time working on the computer, but I also thoroughly enjoy interacting with my colleagues.

Who are you outside of work?

I have a wonderful family, a wife and two kids, a boy and a girl. My favorite thing is to get out into the mountains together, hiking, skiing, camping, etc. I thrive on intense exercise. I also enjoy woodworking, furniture making mostly...but lately it's been hard to find time.

What has been your favorite work­related experience?

Working at NCAR. I love the mix of things I do in my job: organizing projects, working with people, creating computer codes, analyzing date, writing proposals and papers. I feel tremendously fortunate to have found such a special place.

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

Hard to name just one person, but I would like to thank my former Civil Engineering Professor at Tufts, Linfield Brown. His enthusiasm for modeling and statistics inspired me and set me on my academic path.

One-minute mentor

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

Find something that you are passionate about. Seek to develop diverse skills and knowledge. Write. Language is the key to interdisciplinary success.

Matt Long, Scientist

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