Peter Caldwell

Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division

June 22, 2020

What do you like about working at the Lab?

First and foremost, I enjoy working with bright people to solve hard problems, and I love the diversity of my roles. I also really like living in Livermore—it has great restaurants, nice people, is very walkable/bikeable, and has good access to hiking. Finally, working at LLNL gives me access to amazing computational resources and professional opportunities.

What do your day-to-day work activities include?

I use computer modeling to study climate change. On a typical day, I write computer code, solve math problems, think about rain storms, manage a team, and perhaps give a talk or work on a paper.

What is one project you’re really proud to have worked on?

I’m currently leading a project aimed at creating a new numerical model of the atmosphere. This model will have much finer spatial resolution than previous models, which should make it more accurate and trustworthy. This project is equal parts atmospheric physics (choosing realistic process representations and good questions to answer with the model) and computer science (building a model which runs really fast on the world’s newest and biggest supercomputers). It is, to our knowledge, the first global climate model written in C++.

What is your educational and career background?

I got a BS and MS in mathematics from Western Washington University, and then a PhD in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington. I came to LLNL as a postdoc 11 years ago and never left.

What inspired you to go into your field of work?

Climate science is a unique blend of geophysics, computer science, numerical analysis, statistics, and communication skills, which is a good fit for my jack-of-all-trades background. Also, I care deeply about the future of our planet. I feel lucky to get paid for saving it.

What advice would you give to a new employee at the Lab?

Get to know a lot of people—you never know who will have great advice or an opportunity for you. Volunteer to help out wherever you can—this will lead to more opportunities and increase your value to the lab.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I like to explore the natural world under human power. I’ve skied across the Sierras and off the summit of many peaks in California and Washington. I’ve biked from Seattle to San Francisco and back as well as north–south across Germany. These days, I spend most of my free time kayaking. I’ve been on kayak expeditions in Mexico, Belize, England, Croatia, Thailand, and British Columbia, but I spend most of my time exploring the coast and rivers of California.

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