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Catching up with Alumni: John R. Taylor, B.S. Engineering Physics, 2001

After graduating from SCU with a degree in Engineering Physics in 2001, I moved to Monterey, CA and spent a year working with the Navy at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center. Here, the Navy develops and runs weather forecast models that they send out to their ships around the world. I worked in a group developing new ocean models, which are an important component in weather forecasts. While working with the Navy, I realized that there are fascinating and rich applications of physics in oceanography and fluid dynamics. I wanted to learn much more about these areas, so in 2002 I enrolled in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering PhD program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). During my PhD, I developed a computer model to study turbulent currents in the ocean. I finished my PhD at the beginning of 2008 and moved to MIT to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences. Here, I interacted directly with oceanographers and applied the tools and skills I had learned at SCU and UCSD to problems in oceanography.

In 2011, I moved even farther away from home and started a faculty position at the University of Cambridge, in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (D AM TP). My current role is the equivalent of assistant professor in the United States system. I teach students in math and the natural sciences (which here, includes physics) and manage a research group that currently has three PhD students and three postdoctoral researchers.

I love my job! I get to spend my days thinking about fascinating problems in physics with important applications to the natural world. Some of the topics that I am working on include the dynamics of ocean fronts such as the Gulf Stream, studying the influence of ocean physics on biology including in phytoplankton (small algal cells) and bacteria, and melting of Antarctic ice shelves by warm ocean waters. In my view there is an urgent need in earth and climate science for talented people with strong training in physics and math to work on problems with big societal impacts.

Image: Dr. Taylor, framed by a centuries old obelisk. John joined the Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics faculty at the University of Cambridge in 2011.

Alumni story