Cesar B. Rocha was born in São Paulo, Brazil, to a middle-class family of Austrian (25%), Japanese (25%), and Portuguese (50%) descent. He was raised in the city, in a home filled with books and music, and spent most of his vacations in the Brazilian Costa Verde, where his family owns a summer house.
Rocha developed an early aptitude for programming, mathematics, and swimming, spending most of his childhood at school, on the screen, or in the pool. On weekends, he used to travel across São Paulo state with teammates, and their “soccer parents,” to compete in regional contests ––– some of Rocha’s closest and most loyal friends stem from that junior dream team. He gave up swimming in freshman year of high school, but resumed practice and participated in a few contests in college.
Rocha attended Latin America’s biggest and richest post-secondary institution, the University of São Paulo, USP, graduating in 2011. At USP, he studied oceanography, became a civil and human rights activist, taught physics for low-income high schoolers, and fell in love with the academic life.
Rocha’s determination to become a scientist boosted the development of an unshakeable work ethic. As a result, he was awarded competitive scholarships, graduated at the top of his class, and received the 2011 best honors thesis award. Before joining Scripps’s Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program in 2013, Rocha completed a master in physical oceanography at USP and was a visiting scholar in the department of physics of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Most of Rocha’s intellectual influences are Brazilian scientists: Mário Schenberg, César Lattes, Iuda Goldman Vel Lejbman, César Timo-Iaria, Paulo Artaxo, Marcelo Gleiser, and Miguel Nicolelis. The American physicist Richard Feynman, whose autobiography amused Rocha as a teenager, completes the list. And Henry Stommel is perhaps Rocha’s biggest oceanography hero, both because of Stommel’s uncanny physical intuition and excellent writing skills.
In his research, Rocha combines different approaches to attack fundamental problems in physical oceanography –– theory, computation, and observation play complementary roles. For Rocha, clear and accessible communication is paramount, and he strives for pedagogy in his papers and presentations. Rocha believes that the peer-review system needs reform and that scientists must share data and code.
Outside academia, Rocha is passionate about traveling, technology, old books, music, and poetry. He is an avid New Yorker reader and religiously read the New York Times on Sunday mornings and two books per week — one during weekdays and one over the weekend. Rocha is a big fan of Novos Baianos, Rodrigo Amarante, José Saramago, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade. He plays piano, ukulele, drums, and guitar. Rocha is fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish — and he is working on improving his French.
Rocha lives in La Jolla, CA, where he cycles to work and swims at Canyon View pool.