Popular Science magazine has named David Thompson, atmospheric science assistant professor at Colorado State University, one of the "brilliant 10" young scientists to watch. Thompson, 36, studies patterns in climate change and trends in climate data.
"This is wonderful recognition of Dr. Thompson and the very important research occurring in our atmospheric science department," said Tony Frank, provost and senior vice president. "He epitomizes the commitment of faculty at Colorado State University to foster excellence in research. We’re here to do whatever we can as an institution to contribute to the benefit of society in which we are so fortunate to live and raise our families."
The university recently honored Thompson with the prestigious Monfort Professor Award, one of the university’s top honors. Thompson will receive $75,000 annually for two years to support innovative teaching and research. The award, established through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation, is in addition to salary and support he currently receives from Colorado State. In 2005, Time magazine named Thompson one of the leading innovators in the science community.
The October issue of Popular Science, which hit newsstands today, refers to the "brilliant 10" as mavericks and young guns: "The eventual winners are young … and each is just beginning to be noticed in the world outside their respective fields. But among their peers, our winners’ oft-radical ideas are generating a rare degree of respect and admiration. … And for that, they deserve to be part of our Brilliant 10."
Other scientists named in Popular Science are from such institutions as Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne and the University of California-Los Angeles.
Thompson’s current work emphasizes improving understanding of global climate variability using observational data. His research interests include large-scale atmospheric dynamics – how the large-scale atmosphere organizes itself into patterns and how those patterns affect climate – decadal climate variability and ocean-atmosphere interactions. His recent publications have contributed to improved understanding of large-scale modes of month-to-month variability in the atmosphere and the signature of these modes in recent climate trends.
Prior to joining Colorado State, he obtained international recognition for his work with John M. Wallace at the University of Washington observing that wind patterns called the Artic and Antarctic Oscillations play a role in changing weather throughout the northern Hemisphere.
"Our Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State has celebrated more than 40 years of excellence in graduate education and cutting-edge research," said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering. "David’s outstanding scientific discoveries contribute to that reputation and the department’s standing as a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence at Colorado State."
"The honor is nice in that it highlights climate research to a relatively wide audience," Thompson said. "But receiving an individual honor feels a little awkward, too, since all of my work is done in collaboration with my peers."
In 2004, Thompson was awarded the prestigious American Geophysical Union’s James B. Macelwane Medal that recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist. The award is one of AGU’s top honors. His many other honors include the NASA Earth System Science Fellowship, an NSF CAREER award and the NOAA OAR Outstanding Scientific Paper Award.
He has published more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles in publications such as Science Magazine, Physics Today and the Journal of Climate. Some of his work has additionally received national media attention in such publications as National Geographic, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Thompson received a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1994 and master’s and doctoral degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Washington in 1998 and 2000. He joined the atmospheric science faculty at Colorado State in 2001.