Dan J. Bower
Caltech Geophysics Division, MC 252-21, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
The Peak District was the first National Park to be established in the UK in 1951, and whilst a boy I explored its diverse and rolling landscape on foot, bicycle, in boats, and even down caves. Regular visits to the Park infused an appreciation of geology and ignited a desire to understand Earth's structure and the processes through which Earth has evolved. After completing high school I moved to the northeast of England to pursue an undergraduate degree in geophysics at the University of Durham. Exploration seismology comprised a dominant part of the course, and in small groups we assimilated seismic and well data to construct reservoir models for several oil and gas fields in the North Sea. My elective modules were selected from the departments of physics and mathematics to provide me with a theoretical and numerical background, which I was able to translate to applications in my geophysical studies. I was presented with the opportunity to develop my independent research skills in the form of an undergraduate dissertation. Armed with a magnetometer I negotiated the rugged terrain of Wales and tracked a Tertiary dyke swarm intruding into Northwest Wales from the Irish Sea.
Whilst an undergraduate student I realized that methods developed in fluid dynamics were powerful frontline techniques for tackling many research problems encountered in geophysics. Consequently, the next stage of my academic journey became apparent–progressing to the University of Cambridge, the birthplace of modern fluid dynamics. Post-graduate study at the British Petroleum Institute (BPI) and Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) was an invaluable experience. I was part of a vibrant research community that gave me an appreciation of the complexities of modeling fluid flows. Within the departments, researchers placed emphasis on the physical interpretation of mathematical models. This was part of the fundamental ethos of DAMTP: applied mathematics provided a convenient vehicle to a superior understanding of a physical problem.
My Master's thesis at the BPI explored challenges in engineering physics and applied turbulent plume theory and small-scale laboratory experiments to understand natural ventilation flows. The ultimate goal of this research was to reduce the energy consumption of a building by minimizing the use of air conditioning and mechanical ventilation. I developed several time-dependent mathematical models and compared the results with small-scale laboratory experiments using water as the working fluid. The models determined the time-dependent density stratification and the motion of density interfaces in a naturally ventilated space. In addition, the models incorporated an entrainment function to account for the mixing of fluid across a density interface by penetrative convection. Research at the BPI resulted in the development and commercialization of a low energy ventilation system by a spin-out company (Breathing Buildings).
I relocated to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) during summer 2006 to begin a Geophysics Ph.D. program under the guidance of Professor Michael Gurnis. My PhD specialized in the dynamic regime and mineral physics of the Earth's interior through the advancement and application of numerical models and parallel computing methods. This research included international collaboration, community-based software development, and presentations to Caltech donors, academic peers, and the general public. As a student ambassador to both fellow graduate students and Caltech I have championed several causes through dialogue and debate with a variety of audiences and worked as a team leader to enable other students to advance common goals of the graduate community.