William Lau

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

 In this talk, I will tell the story of how world events,  and the culture and education systems of three major continents, Europe, Asia and North America shaped my upbringing, career goals and work ethics.  I will first talk about my experience as a kid growing up under a colonial education system with strong Chinese cultural influence, and my aspirations to pursue a career in physics; how I accidentally entered the field of atmospheric sciences in the US.  Then I will discuss the evolution of NASA from a pure science ( as far as I am concerned) to a mission oriented agency from the early 1980’s to present, with respect to  my early work on air-sea interaction modeling (my PhD thesis), monsoon cold surges,  ENSO instability; how I re-discovered the 40-50 day oscillations ( a.k.a., the MJO) and the Pacific heating dipole from satellite observations; involvement in the formulation of the TRMM;  how to make a time series sing;  participated in TOGA-COARE and led the SCSMEX monsoon experiments  and  more recently circumstances leading to the formulation of  the “Elevated Heat Pump” (EHP) hypothesis on aerosol-monsoon climate interactions,  and the Ying-Yang of  floods and droughts occurrence under climate change  .  Finally I want to talk about my decisions to take on positions as the Branch Head (now Lab Chief) in 1991, and then Chief of the Laboratory for Atmospheres (now Deputy Director for Atmospheres) in 2003, which marked two major bifurcations in my professional career.   I think I have found the right balance and enjoyed my roles in both management and in science research.       I am fortunate to have the diverse expertise, and the best and brightest minds around at NASA to bounce off new ideas on science, projects and missions.