“The Birth of CACHE”

This Director’s Note was published in the January 2017 edition of the CACHE Quarterly Newsletter.

In September 2014, I was still reeling from the phone calls, interview requests, and felicitations that flood a person who’s been visited by a MacArthur Fellowship when Dean Andreas Cangellaris stopped by my office to add his congratulations. Something about his cheerful presence elicited the big question that had been simmering in my subconscious: “How do I do justice to this?” I’d been awarded the Fellowship for my work on black carbon particles—an important player in atmospheric chemistry, yet one that led to more questions than answers. After measuring, modeling, and thinking about the messy fires that beget black carbon for nearly 20 years, I had come to the inescapable conclusion that combustion effluents are just the wagging tail of an excitable dog. That dog is a dynamic mix of societal choices expressed as preferences, inertia, technology, and infrastructure. I recognized that I had an opportunity—almost a duty—to chase it.

It’s taken a couple of years to clarify some meaningful subsets of the complex system where I think we can make progress. It’s been a pleasure and a challenge to initiate conversations and collaborations that explore not just scientific questions, but the way we ask them. Keep talking.

Best, Tami

Posted in Director's Notes, News