Luca Montabone

Research Scientist
Greenbelt, MD

I was born in Turin (Italy, EU) about 23 Martian years ago. I have always been interested in exploring the natural world. When the time came to make the choice of which university faculty to attend, I decided to do physics at the University of Turin. During my master, I developed a specific interest in fluid dynamics, and that interest has never gone away since. I realized research was what I really wanted to do, so I did a PhD in Italy, working in Genoa and Turin. My research was focused on the dynamics of turbulence. In particular, I studied the emergence of coherent structures (mainly vortices) in turbulent fluid flows, using both numerical simulations and laboratory experiments. At the end of my PhD, I wanted to explore topics beyond fundamental fluid dynamics, so I applied for a postdoc at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom, EU) to study the climate and weather on Mars by means of data assimilation of satellite observations into a Mars global climate model. I was accepted for an initial two-year postdoc, and since then I have been mainly involved in studying the atmosphere of Mars in Oxford and lately in Paris (France, EU) at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, specifically focusing on dust storms and their relation to global dynamics. I have been doing research at the Space Science Institute since the end of 2013, as a PI on a couple of NASA grants. I kept a strong interest in doing research on vortices in planetary atmospheres, particularly those located at the polar regions of Mars, Venus, Saturn, and our own Earth (the so-called 'polar vortices'). I enjoy using a comparative approach to study such ubiquitous atmospheric structures, and I am always looking for basic natural principles which can be deduced from one system and applied to learn about a different one -I guess I have a philosophical side of me that kicks in, from time to time. In parallel with my research interests, in the last few years I have also developed an interest in both formal and informal education, using the latest media technologies. I am particularly attracted by the concept of 'learning through research', which I am trying to implement in my educational activity.

Outside science, I love dancing Argentinian tango and I have recently started Tai-Chi (actually, there is quite a bit of physics in both of these activities!). I enjoy outdoor activities, and the combination of food and social life (the paradigm of being Italian!). As for my personal life, I am married to Héloïse, who is French and works in social sciences, and we have a baby daughter (Lara). We live in Aix-les-Bains (France, EU) for most time of the year, and we usually spend a couple of months in the USA.