Steve Mueller

Educational and Professional Background
Planetary Origins, Plate Tectonics, Meteorological Hazards and Solar Physics— Twenty Years of Scientific Computing

I have an undergraduate degree in physics, a Masters in Earth and Planetary Science, and a Ph.D. in geophysics. Unlike the majority of geophysicists, my area of expertise is not oil and gas exploration, but the less lucrative and more academic discipline of planetary physics, which is a multidisciplinary field that combines physics, astronomy, and geology. Initially, my career was devoted to understanding the origin and evolution of planets and moons in the solar system. After receiving my Ph.D., I developed a research interest in our own planet, particularly the relationship between plate tectonics and seismic hazards.

My geophysical research addressed a wide variety of topics, including
  • Origin of the planet Pluto
  • Origin of Triton, the largest moon of Neptune
  • Internal structure and evolution of Ganymede and Callisto, the largest moons of Jupiter
  • Internal structure of the Earth's moon
  • Initiation of subduction (a key component of the plate tectonic process) on Earth
  • Inelastic crustal deformation (e.g., mountain building) on Earth and Venus
  • Use of minor seismicity to monitor stress accumulations that trigger powerful subduction earthquakes

The common theme of this work was numerical modeling, or, in other words, computer simulations of complex physical systems. For this reason, one consequence of my geophysical research was the acquisition of extensive software development skills. Research positions that I have held include, among others, a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado, and an appointment as a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute (English-language Website). In addition to technical papers, I have written a couple of magazine articles and encyclopedia entries, and my scientific research has been reported in several mainstream publications, including the New York Times and Scientific American.

Although I always found intellectual satisfaction in geophysical research, I was always uneasy with the lack of job security associated with funding uncertainty. In addition, non-exploration (i.e., non-oil and gas) geophysical research positions are scarce (the majority are university appointments) and many offer Dickensian salary prospects. Financial stability may not be everything, but it's nice to have when you need to take your dog to the vet.

Fortunately, my extensive numerical modeling and software development experience proved to be highly marketable skills. Following a surprisingly brief job search, I was offered a position as a software performance specialist with Electronic Data Systems. After three years with EDS, a period during which I was transferred from St. Louis to Denver, I was hired by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Suddenly, and largely fortuitously, I found myself in a position that offered a reasonable compromise between intellectual satisfaction and financial security with a competitive salary.

In the eleven years I spent as a software engineer at NCAR, I participated in the design and development of meteorologically-based engineering systems intended to mitigate weather-related aviation hazards, such as turbulence, windshear and icing. That work included
  • Collection and analysis of "Doppler on Wheels" radar data for Alaskan terrain-induced turbulence studies
  • Development of software algorithms to detect and quantify turbulence and windshear from radar observations
  • Design of a real-time software algorithm to enable wind profiler radars to detect the presence of precipitation
  • Interpretation of unexplained anomalous wind profiler radar spectra
  • Development of software modules to ingest polar satellite data into automated weather forecast systems
  • Statistical verification of numerical weather models
  • Prediction of inflight icing on the basis of numerical weather models, satellite images, and radar data

In April 2010, I was offered a research faculty position at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which I eagerly accepted. I am now doing algorithm development and scientific data processing at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

My professional experience, educational background, and scientific publications are conveniently summarized in my Curriculum Vitae.

Non-professional Interests
Anyone that has even briefly explored this website is well aware that I am addicted to travel. Roughly 90% of the disk space at is devoted to my travel photography. Friends and coworkers know that I am always eager to talk about places that I have just been or places where I will soon be.

Living in Colorado allows us to visit destinations for the weekend, or, in some cases, even for a single afternoon, that less fortunate travelers may only have the opportunity to visit during an extended and costly vacation. We are within 90 minutes driving time of Rocky Mountain National Park. Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs are within a few hours of our house, as are numerous Rocky Mountain resort towns, such as Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Destinations within easy "three-day weekend reach" include New Mexico, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Arches/Canyonland region near Moab, Utah.

As much as we love exploring the western United States, our most memorable travels have been to Europe. Whether it is the great cities of Paris and London, the forests of Germany, the tulip fields of Holland, or the food of Belgium, we love so much of what Europe has to offer. In addition to recreational travel, we lived in Japan in the early 1990's, and I fly to Alaska periodically for professional reasons.

Carolyn and I are avid dancers, and have pursued most forms of partner dancing with varying degrees of success. We are heavily involved in ballroom dancing and competed in the Colorado Star Ball this past summer. We are modestly accomplished in Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Tango, and will soon add Viennese Waltz to the list. We are also experienced in several less formal, social styles of dancing, such as West Coast Swing and Country Two-Step. I also maintain the website for Let's Dance Denver, which is operated by our long-time friends Kevin and Pat Whiteley.

The only thing we love more than dancing and traveling is dogs, especially Boston Terriers. We have three Bostons - Shelby, Ali and Panda. Four years ago, we adopted a mixed breed that had been roaming our neighborhood for a couple of weeks. No one claimed this happy lovable dog, and we didn't have the heart to turn him over to a shelter. He's been with us since.

Photo Gallery

Alaska Germany Utah

England France Dijon, France Belgium