Luca Montabone

Senior Research Scientist
Greenbelt, MD

I was born in Turin (Italy) about 24 Martian years ago. I did all my studies up to the PhD in Turin, developing a general interest in physics and a specific, longstanding interest in fluid dynamics. My PhD research was focused on the emergence of coherent vortices in turbulent fluid flows, using both numerical simulations and laboratory experiments. I was then offered a postdoc position at the University of Oxford (UK) to study the climate and weather on Mars by means of data assimilation of satellite observations into a Mars global climate model. My research focus was on dust storms and their relation to global dynamics. Since then I have mainly worked on the atmosphere of Mars, but maintained a keen interest in doing research on atmospheric vortices, such as those located at the polar regions of Mars, Venus, Saturn, and our own Earth (the so-called "polar vortices").

After further postdocs at The Open University in Milton Keynes (UK) and at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique in Paris (France), I started working at the Space Science Institute since late 2013. I am currently the PI on three NASA grants related to the atmosphere of Mars. One of these involves working on a scientific mission concept to fly a CubeSat-class satellite to the Red Planet, in order to monitor the onset and evolution of dust storms as well as water ice clouds from the vantage point of a Mars-stationary orbit (also called "areostationary orbit" as equivalent to "geostationary orbit" for the Earth).

In parallel with my research interests, I have also developed a strong interest in informal scientific education, using the latest media technologies. I am particularly attracted by the concept of "learning through research", which I try to implement in all my educational activities.

I like to use a comparative approach to study ubiquitous atmospheric phenomena, such as polar vortices and dust storms. I always look for basic natural principles that can be deduced from one system and applied to another -I guess I have a philosophical side of me that kicks in, from time to time. I try to do this when dancing Argentinian tango or performing Tai-Chi, two of my key hobbies.