Physics Alum Models Weather Events


Marc Simon2Marc Simon ’12 took his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from MCLA to Tufts University in Medford, Mass., where he earned his Ph.D. From there, he headed to Boston, where he uses mathematical models to model weather events. 

The cool thing about physics is that it can apply to anything,” Simon said. “In grad school, I worked in a condensed matter lab researching biomaterials and animal cells with Atomic Force Microscopy. Now I make insurance loss models for weather events. It’s completely different, but the underlying math and problem solving skills are the same. I went from studying things that were nanometer scale to studying things that can cover multiple states.”

As a research scientist in model development at Karen Clark and Company, Simon researches and mathematically models catastrophic events like hurricanes, earthquakes and severe convective storms – such as hail storms, tornadoes and straight-line winds.

“We use what we know to build software that provides financial loss estimates to insurance and re-insurance companies,” he explained. “It’s a highly interdisciplinary field which gives me the opportunity to work with and learn from engineers, software developers, and other scientists.”

Simon always wanted a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), but was never sure on the particulars. “Until a few months before graduation from Tufts, I didn’t even know catastrophe modeling existed. I learned about it at a career fair when I walked by a booth that had a poster with a huge hurricane on it. I thought catastrophe modeling sounded cool, so I applied. I learned a lot and kept learning, which is what I like to do most.”

He attributes his desire to earn his Ph.D to his MCLA professors. “I had a few great professors that provided a lot of encouragement,” Simon said. “My professors and the learning culture of the physics department were really what led me to earn a Ph.D. Wanting to know how everything works helped a bit, too. It was just a great experience.”

According to Simon, his professors at MCLA provided him with the support and guidance that got him through the GREs and school selection/application process. “But more than that, they fostered an excellent learning environment and culture that inspired me to continue to pursue physics.  It’s been five years since I graduated from MCLA, and my professors still provide me with invaluable support.”

At MCLA, Simon worked on research projects that involved robots, double pendulums and eddy currents. He participated in the campus’s Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) during his senior year.

“The URC was a great experience. My project was ‘An Optical Probe to Measure Transient Heat Conduction.’  This involved shining a laser through a plexiglass block that floated on ice water, and measuring how much the beam deflected. The experience, he said, helped prepare him for his Ph.D research.

I had a fantastic academic experience at MCLA. The professors were always helpful and readily available. They were attentive to their students and fostered a supportive and creative learning atmosphere. I always felt I could go to their respective offices for questions and have the distinct impression they cared about the students,” Simon said. “They had us fully engaged in the subject matter, and made what many perceive as an intimidating subject, fun.”