Published: Oct. 12, 1998

Jim Hansen, an All Big-Eight tackle and 1992-93 team captain at the University of Colorado who shunned a chance to play in the National Football League in favor of a Rhodes Scholarship, has received his doctorate from Oxford.

Hansen, who studied atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics at Oxford, recently completed his thesis, which involved determining where and how a range of meteorological observations can be made to improve weather forecasts and how to maximize the use of such forecasts. He finished his CU-Boulder career with a 3.94 grade-point average in aerospace engineering sciences, and a 4.0 in his graduate field of study, fluid dynamics.

Does the 6' 6'', three-time Academic All-American offensive tackle regret declining a chance a play in the National Football League? "Not at all," he said. "While I enjoyed football a great deal, to me it was a means to an end. I wouldn't trade my time with the CU Buffaloes for anything, but I had no desire to play at the professional level."

Today, Hansen's sporting life consists of rugby, cricket, golf and running. For culture and adventure, he has been touring the United Kingdom and Europe, attending plays, operas and perusing art galleries.

Hansen plans to stay at Oxford several more years on a post-doctoral research position funded by Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. He will be working on "climate model sensitivity and tuning, which has links to global warming issues."

As a senior at CU-Boulder, Hansen developed a small "tornado in a tank," analyzing how vortices are organized, said CU aerospace engineering professor and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher Al Bedard. The vortices of both lab tornadoes and true tornadoes often consist of several cores, or tentacles, that spin adjacent to each other. Such tentacles in true tornadoes are responsible for most property damage.

In analyzing data from the two-foot-high lab tornadoes, Hansen discovered a screeching sound audible to the human ear that showed distinct similarities to sound waves emanating from real tornadoes discovered by Bedard.

Although roars from real twisters are too low to be audible to human ears, "the correlation seems to be very good and is consistent to what we have measured in the atmosphere," Bedard said. "This was a nice example of how lab experiments, field work and theory interweave with each other."

Hansen's long-term plans are to return to the United States in an academic engineering position. "Ideally, I'd like to teach at CU," he said.

While Hansen is enjoying his stint in England, he does miss Boulder's climate. "You can't beat those 350-odd days of sunshine, especially after one of the most miserable British summers on record. And it is difficult being so far from friends and former teammates," he said. "While I don't miss the physical aspect of football, I do miss the camaraderie associated with being part of a large team.

"I've searched for that feeling in sports here in the United Kingdom, but have not and never expect to come close to the bonds forged by the CU football teams of the early 1990s."

His initial adjustment to England was difficult. "Americans have a poor reputation in Europe, and I understand why," he said. "They come across as loud, brash and insensitive. They complain about the times shops close, the unavailability of familiar consumer goods, warm beer, and driving on the left side of the road. My first year at Oxford, I was one of those people."

Americans can be "painfully insular" when it comes to foreign countries, said Hansen. "We are raised to believe that America is all that is important in the world. When we encounter a different culture, many of us wrongly assume it is inferior."

"Cultures can be different and still be good," he said. "I've learned to appreciate that shops close early, I prefer warm beer and I get confused when I visit the United States and have to drive on the right side of the road. When I get around to leaving here, I will definitely miss the United Kingdom."

But Hansen said his appreciation of the United States has grown as the result of his experiences. "In contrast to many other cultures, Americans have great opportunities to grow and advance beyond their backgrounds."

Hansen followed in the footsteps of former CU football stars and subsequent Rhodes scholars George Carlson (1931), Clayton White (1933), his younger brother Byron "Whizzer" White (1938), and Joe Romig (1960). Hansen was the 19th CU-Boulder student to earn a Rhodes Scholarship.