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The right questions

Cooper Elsworth
Photo courtesy of Cooper Elsworth

Cooper Elsworth

PhD ‘19

“My current role feels like it’s at the front line of defining how we balance social and financial bottom lines,” said Cooper Elsworth, PhD ’19.

“Sustainability and climate action are moving so quickly right now that asking the question 'What's the right problem?' rather than 'What's the solution?' is an important step to make sure that our efforts have impact.”

Elsworth is a Product Manager for Descartes Labs, a remote-sensing software and analysis startup. The company is building a data platform to scale up remote sensing analysis and develop insights from geospatial datasets that businesses can act on. The team has pursued projects on deforestation monitoring in agricultural supply chains, remote monitoring of regenerative agriculture practices, renewable energy forecasting, and maritime emissions prediction, he said.

“An important piece of climate action is providing quantitative information for the private and public sectors to change behavior and understand the risks associated with climate change,” Elsworth said.

Elsworth has long been passionate about using his engineering background to address climate issues. While at Stanford, he took a geophysical approach to understanding melting ice sheets, as they comprise the largest unknown factors in projections of sea-level rise.

“I left Stanford with a wide tool-belt of computational techniques, domain expertise, and modeling intuition to solve tough problems. But maybe more importantly, my training at Stanford has prepared me to ask the right questions before trying to jump into the solution.”

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