Random Profile

Inside CESM

Adrianne Middleton, NESL/CGD

Adrianne in front of a supercomputer.

In Random Profile, we interview a stochastically selected staff member about his or her life at the office—and outside of it.

Adrianne Middleton

Lab/Division: NESL/CGD
Job Title: Software engineer
Years at NCAR: 23 
Fun Fact: Got married in the Mesa Lab’s Damon Room

For starters, what are you wearing on your feet? I thought they were just Vibram Five Fingers shoes, but they’ve turned out to be conversation pieces. I had plantar fasciitis for years and got expensive custom orthotics, but my feet hurt the whole time I wore them. Then my husband was researching running shoes and said, “Hey, check out these new barefoot shoes.” I put them on, the pain went away, and I’m a convert for life. Now, I only wear normal shoes about a dozen times a year, on slushy days or when it’s extremely cold.

You work at home. Does that mean you work in your pajamas? I do work at home, so I can work in my pajamas if I want, though I like to be dressed by the time UPS comes by. But what I’ve really gotten used to is the quiet. I like to be able to sink into the work and get it done without interruptions. The phone never rings, people don’t knock on my door, and I feel like I can choose my priorities.

What kind of work do you do in CGD? I run the CESM [Community Earth System Model] for Warren Washington’s group. The CESM Software Engineering Group builds and maintains CESM, then with the help of the scientists, I modify the parameters that they want to experiment with. I log onto some of the biggest supercomputers in the world and run the mod- els, creating terabytes of data that I turn over to the scientists for their research. Right now, I’m running models for the IPCC AR5 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report).

Three photos of Adrianne, including her feet while wearing Vibram Five Fingers.

If you could have any superpower or piece of technology to make your job easier, what would it be? I would have a magical piece of software that would launch itself every day and regenerate any missing data in the models. When you create terabytes of data, any little machine or software glitch can cause data to be lost, and the scientists are really determined to get every last bit.

You must like your job if you’ve been here for 23 years. This is a fabulous job. The thing I find most fascinating is sitting in our weekly meetings and listening to world- renowned climatologists talk about what’s really going on in the world. At the end of the day, I feel like I’m helping make the world a better place.

Your husband, Don Middleton, works in CISL. What’s it like being an NCAR couple? We were both working in SCD [the former Scientific Computing Division, now CISL] when we met in director Bill Buzbee’s office during a New Year’s Eve party in 1988. It’s fun being able to share stories about what went well, or how someone we both know had a victory. But we’ve had to make rules about not sharing too many problems. You need to be able to turn things off.

Your left brain must get quite a workout as a software engineer. What do you do for the right side of your brain? I write. I’m working on the Great American Fantasy Novel. My main character is cursed and has to do things she thinks are evil in order to protect her friends.

When do we get to read it? Don’t hold your breath. I thought I had it finished in 2007. Then I joined Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and discovered that I had to learn a lot about writing. Now I’m revising it for the tenth time. I’m beginning to feel like I won’t be embarrassed to show the next revision to an agent or an editor.

Is there something that your co-workers would be surprised to learn about you? I’m a baker at heart. I love to bake bread. This would surprise my co-workers, who know I have numerous food sensitivities. I can’t eat any wheat, dairy, or aged protein. I can eat all the fresh cucumbers I want, but if I put them in a pickle jar for ten days, I can’t eat them anymore. I eat a lot of vegetables and I’ve made a study of cooking wheat- and dairy-free recipes from around the world. I made shrimp with a saffron sauce last night, and served them with a large salad.

It’s cliché, but we have to ask: What would you do if you won the lottery? I don’t think I would do very much differently. I already have a dream job, and so many people can’t say that. I might do some remodeling to my house. It would be nice to have windows that didn’t sing when the wind blows. I would put some of the money into a trust for my kids. I really want them to have a secure future.