How nature works

Anirban Guha

Anirban Guha – Photo by Martin Dee

Civil engineering PhD awarded Cambridge fellowship to study polar cyclones and weather

He may be a theoretical scientist, but Anirban Guha’s love of nature greatly influenced his decision to pursue a PhD at UBC.

“I’ve never been so close to nature,” says Guha of Canada’s beautiful West Coast as he prepares to defend his thesis. “Being here has really influenced how I’ve thought and contemplated.”

“UBC was a very good choice for me,” said the Calcutta native.

Nature is important to Guha as more than a place of escape, physical activity or relaxation. It’s central to what he believes will be his life’s work – researching and understanding atmospheric flows.

“My goal is to see how nature works,” he said, acknowledging the size of the task.

Inspiration on Vancouver trails

“In nature many things exist that we don’t understand or see. Most good ideas come when you’re walking or doing something – not sitting in front of the computer.”

Walking the trails and beaches around Vancouver allows Guha to philosophically contemplate nature. Such understanding is essential, he believes, for scientists to unravel the mysterious working principles of natural flows in the air and water, which govern our climate and weather.

“The climate models we use now are not very accurate because we don’t understand turbulence well.”

“I want to see the bigger picture, to see things and understand them differently. I want to study the fundamental problems and understand what’s happening.”

Guha will have such an opportunity this summer when he travels to the University of Cambridge to study for three months with the Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics Group.

Guha won a prestigious 2013 David Crighton Fellowship, and the opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading researchers of fluid dynamics of atmosphere and ocean thrills him.

Study at Cambridge

He will participate in a study of the stratospheric polar vortex – a giant cyclone located at each of the earth’s poles – and its waves, dynamics and chaotic processes that influence weather and climate.

Such research can contribute to improving models for predicting the weather and climate, which in turn can help us better understand issues like global warming, climate change and ozone depletion.

“The climate models we use now are not very accurate because we don’t understand turbulence well,” said Guha, hoping that his work might be “a building block to understand and create better models.”

Guha is again grateful that at UBC he found a supervisor, Prof. Greg Lawrence, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Fluid Mechanics, who believes in digging deep in pursuit of the big picture.

“It’s very hard to find people who believe in theoretical research, and I am very grateful for all the ways he has supported me.”

Guha hopes to find a faculty position after graduation from UBC and his time at Cambridge. With its near-unparalleled access to nature, UBC is high on his list.