At a Glance
Year: ’81, ’83
Major: Environmental Science
Target-tracking algorithms for nuclear submarines. Disease outbreak monitoring. A system to detect when fog would burn off at San Francisco International Airport. For the recently retired Russell Todd ’81, ’83, those are just a few of the highlights of a remarkable – and unscripted – 40-year career.
“I never really chose my majors based on the job I would get after college; I chose them based on things I was curious about,” says Todd, a Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native who earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a master’s degree in mathematics. “I love learning, and I loved the fact that my only job in college was to learn.”
Todd began his career as a mathematician for the Department of the Navy, where he did “Tom Clancy novel stuff” working on nuclear submarines in Newport, Rhode Island – and where an oceanography course he took as an undergrad proved useful. In 1986, he joined the MITRE Corporation and developed simulations of ballistic missile attacks against the United States as part of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” program.
In 1991, Todd became a scientific systems analyst for the Lockheed Martin Corporation, working as a subcontractor for MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s weather sensing group – where, again, undergraduate courses in meteorology and hydrology proved handy.
He helped improve the detection of dangerous weather conditions at airports by developing a program to integrate data from the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar and Low Level Windshield Alert systems. He also worked on a system that could compute a three-dimensional wind grid around an airport, and another system to predict when the notorious fog would lift at San Francisco’s airport.
“Even though I never went into the field of environmental science, my undergraduate degree ended up being tremendously useful because it covers such a broad spectrum,” says Todd, who spent the last six years of his career as a programmer with Solidus Technical Solutions, where he worked on a model that simulated disease outbreaks.
“My UMass Lowell education prepared me superbly for my career,” says Todd, who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Jennie. “It worked out very, very well.”