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M.Phil., Columbia University logo, NASA GISS logo.

M.Phil. from Columbia and NASA GISS in Supercomputing

At Columbia University and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), before I was allowed to pursue a Ph.D., I had to take numerous advanced courses regarding climate modeling on supercomputers, in which I did very well, and pass an oral qualifying exam, all for which I received an M.Phil. (Master of Philosophy).

Columbia and NASA GISS are in Manhattan, New York City, so during 9/11 I was thus living and working there, where both World Trade Center towers were brought down by foreign terrorists in hijacked airliners. This brought the issue of security close to home for me, particularly IT and security since 9/11 Was Due to IT Incompetence. Moreover, after 9/11, foreigners working at NASA, and there were/are many, had to undergo lengthy background checks in order to use the supercomputers, even those foreigners who had already been using them for years (see IT Hiring: Foreigners in Principles of IT Incompetence).

(Interestingly, right before 9/11 I was learning to skydive at a small airport out in New Jersey. When you're learning, you can't have more than a month between jumps or you have to start all over again and it's expensive. I had 12 non-tandem jumps from 14,000 feet and only needed a couple more before I could solo; before that you have to have an expensive instructor jump with you. But after 9/11 they closed all the small airports around NYC for several months. I gave up skydiving.)

From Dec 2000 to Jan 2001, I was part (a CTD instrument operator) of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Antarctic research cruise aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker out of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and studying the Mertz Glacier region of Antarctica, where no ship had been before. During the cruise I learned about doing email via non-geosynchronous satellite — so only a once-per-day window to send emails — including its expense, which meant text-only no-attachment emails.

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