Jim Murphy
Meteorologist and Mars Research Scientist
NASA Ames Research Center
Mountain View, California

What I Do

I am a research scientist with the San Jose State University Foundation. My office is at NASA Ames Research center, where I am a member of the Mars Atmospheric Modelling Group in the Space Sciences Division. My work consists of developing numerical computer models of the martian atmosphere, as well as analyzing data from past spacecraft missions to Mars and participating in upcoming missions to Mars. The computer models we utilize are very similar to the computer models used for forecasting weather here on Earth. We change the models to represent Mars by changing the atmospheric composition (carbon dioxide, the fizzy stuff in a can of soda pop), the surface elevations, removing oceans (Mars has no liquid water on its surface), as well as other less-exciting changes.

Our models are run under a variety of conditions to better understand weather on Mars (and thereby learn about the weather on Earth) as well as the climate of Mars, and how it may have changed over the life of the planet ( believed to be 4.5 billion years). When we make new discoveries, we write papers (usually 2-20 pages in length) which, after being reviewed by other scientists, get published in scientific journals. These journal are like monthly magazines that contain results from a variety of scientists studying a large number of weather or planet processes.By publishing results, scientists are able to let others see what they have learned, and the other scientists can then use this new information to help them in their studies. Thus, we scientists are all trying to help each other learn more about the subjects we study and hopefully better understand the world around all of us.

My Career Journey

I decided to become a scientist who studies the atmospheres of other planets while I was an undergraduate student in college. I have always had an interest in astronomy (looking through telescopes when I was young, going to planetariums). When I was in seventh grade I wanted to study weather, so I started reading all the weather books in my school and public library. (Prior to deciding on meteorology, I had wished to be a farmer and then a veterinarian, but when half of my class declared that they too wanted to be vets, I decided I wanted to do something a bit more unique). I always enjoyed science and math while in school, and this paid off in the long run, since meteorology requires a strong knowledge of math and physics (which I did not realize when I decided I wanted to be a meteorologist!).

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