I develop retrieval algorithms for the CALIPSO lidar. These algorithms are used to transform the raw instrument measurements into the geophysical quantities that are the most interesting and useful to scientists and engineers. Algorithms are specific sets of step-by-step instructions, very much like recipes. My job is to take the measurements that CALIPSO makes (the ingredients) and turn them into interesting and yummy scientific data products (the cake!).
Image left: Shown here is Mark Vaughan, algorithm developer for CALIPSO.
What attracted you to the CALIPSO mission?
About 18 years ago, I was given the opportunity to work on a lidar development project where I got to essentially play with a lidar all day long. The lidar beam is like a real-life light saber from Star Wars -- very cutting-edge and ultra-interesting. I was like a kid with a new toy -- it’s been extremely exciting being able to work with such intrinsically cool instruments. When CALIPSO came along, offering another opportunity to work on a space-based lidar, I just couldn't pass up the chance.
What's your favorite part of your job?
I really love what I do -- I enjoy developing, testing and implementing new algorithms. Getting to work on a challenging project like CALIPSO is a genuinely hip way to earn a living. The best part of my job is knowing that the knowledge we gain from our remote sensing experiments will help people throughout the planet better understand the Earth's climate.
Tell us more about you...
I have two great kids that I am very proud of. My 15 year old daughter and I share a love of music and I enjoy going to concerts with her – the Warped Tour is our favorite father-daughter event. My 19 year old son is a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. He just returned alive and well from a tour of duty in Iraq, and our whole family is extremely proud of him (and of course when he’s here in the area, he joins my daughter and me at the Warped Tour).