Here are articles to highlight two software programmers who work on interesting and useful problems.
As a PhD candidate at University of California, Davis, Medley worked as a programmer to solve an odd problem. To avoid disturbing the Yosemite Great Grey Owls they studied, the team Medley worked on laid out a grid of microphones in fields near where the owls nested and hunted. The microphones generated about 50 terabytes of data. Medley used software programming to pull out the sounds of owls as they traversed the meadows. His work helped identify individual owls by their calls, as well as other useful data about the owls. They even captured the sounds of ground-based animals as they gnawed on their microphones.
Working at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, Snitkin used Perl to create models to track the spread of a deadly virus in a nearby hospital. The hospital did everything right yet patients in isolation ward continued to get sick. Snitkin helped figure out the mystery by plotting different paths and connections between cases, medical equipment, and other factors to find an answer and stop the spread of the virus.
Photo courtesy Mark A Coleman on Flickr.