At a recent gathering of oceanographers who specialize in understanding the interaction of marine life with climate change, I repeatedly saw the influence of one person: Jorge Sarmiento, a professor in the Department of Geosciences since 1980.
I first met Jorge when I made the life-changing decision to take his course on physical oceanography. I was enthralled by the prospect of a field in which math and physics could be put to use on fundamental questions about how our planet worked. After getting my doctorate, I spent 13 years working with Jorge as a research scientist in his group, as a collaborator at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, and as adjunct faculty in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Program.
Jorge’s impact derives from three qualities: his ability to identify problems that are important and that require synthesizing expertise from different disciplines; his ability to organize teams of people with different expertise to carry these problems forward; and his relentless promotion of those people and their work.
Jorge is a tireless advocate for his junior colleagues, and his willingness to work outside of his intellectual comfort zone inspires the rest of us to do so as well. For his 70th birthday in 2016, almost two-thirds of the 18 Ph.D. students and more than 50 postdoctoral fellows and researchers he’d supervised by that time made the trek to Princeton for a scientific conference to say thanks to him and to point the way to the future of understanding our beautiful, complex, and threatened planet.