It’s been a decade…

It’s New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow will begin a new decade – the 2020s. Ten years ago, I was a high school senior, Herbert Hoover High class of 2010. This round graduation year makes big dates easy to mark, like this one. In the last ten years, I’ve grown from a naive, excited 18 year old to a slightly-less-naive but still generally excited-about-life 28 year old. So much has happened!

Professionally/academically – I started this decade off looking for a college. I came quite close to enrolling at Harvard, but at the last minute (honestly, I was probably too scared to go) decided to go to CalU all but sight unseen to join their small meteorology program. What a choice! On paper I look crazy, but it turned out to be the best choice I could have made for myself. I finished there and (again seemingly almost on accident) ended up at OU for graduate school. A whirlwind few years went by, I got my Ph.D. and took a postdoctoral position at the National Severe Storms lab. I’ll end 2019 in this role, but begin 2020 by starting my career in the federal service as a research meteorologist at this lab. I NEVER could have guessed this when I was backing out of my ambitions to go to the Ivy league. I never could see it, and I stressed all along this path, but it all worked out. Funny how that goes.

I have so many thoughts about this last decade: my experiences, my growth, the people who have come in and out of my life, the people who have stayed, the mistakes I’ve made, times people have wronged me, times I have wronged others. There’s so much to process, it is almost overwhelming. In this exercise, I’ve come to a few conclusions for myself:

  1. I have accomplished SO much in these 10 years. I am proud of myself for it, and grateful to all the people that helped and all the opportunities for growth (even the painful ones) along the way. I look forward to the next decade of challenge and growth.
  2. There are so many big, weighty problems in the world that it really isn’t worth dwelling on the comparatively small unresolved issues I’ve had with people in my life. In the new decade, I will try my absolute hardest to let those go and move forward without grudges.
  3. I am surrounded by so many amazing people, and I really should try harder to let them know that I care for them and appreciate them more often.

The other outcome of this exercise: I came across a ton of fun pictures from my life over the last 10 years. Ending 2019 and the 2010s on a fun note, I’m sharing some of them here. Happy new year and new decade to all!

Hired!

Big news! I got a permanent job! For the last year, I’ve been working as a CIMMS postdoctoral researcher supporting NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory. Postdocs are weird, and fun, but non-permanent and therefore insecure.

This morning, I accepted an offer to join the National Severe Storms Lab as a federal meteorologist.

I’ll be transitioning to my new position next month. I can’t believe its real!

As silly and cliche as it sounds, this is honestly a dream come true. I am guilty of forgetting from time to time how amazing this place is, and that this building I’ve been working in for nearly 5 years houses some of the most brilliant and accomplished scientists in my fields. In reality, I’m probably a bit too jaded for my own good. But really, when I take a step back and try to look at this subjectively – wow! I did it. I came from a tiny little town in West Virginia where Physics wasn’t even a class that was offered most years, went on to small state school to chase this little dream of being a forecaster, found out what research was, somehow got accepted to one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country, succeeded (maybe survived is a better word) in getting a very rapid direct track Ph.D., and now – just like that – I’m a ‘real’ scientist taking a job I could have literally only dreamed about just 4 years ago. I’ve found this news hard to convince myself to celebrate, but putting it down in these terms helps. It is a dream come true, just a dream I kinda forgot I had until recently.

The other somewhat funny thing about this experience has been that is feels like its been pre-determined a bit. I’m sure hindsight is clearer than any, but when I look back on my journey, even though I thought at times I would go another direction here or there, NOAA has always been pulling at me.

In 2012, I was awarded the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. This program legitimately changed my life. The stipend that came with the program made it possible for me to only work a 10-hr/week work study position and focus on my coursework instead of taking a part-time job to make ends meet. In addition to that burden being lifted for my final two years of undergrad, the program also includes a paid internship at a NOAA office during the summer between junior and senior year. I spent my summer at the Cheyenne, WY NWS office working on a project about the impact of marginal-to-warm soil temperatures on snow accumulation. I learned a lot in those 10 weeks: I found out operational forecasting was absolutely NOT my cup of tea, I absolutely love the research process, and I don’t care at all about soil characteristics (funny enough my Ph.D. candidacy exam focused on soil moisture… brutal).

130 NOAA scholarship recipients from three programs (Ernest F. Hollings, Educational Partnership Program (EPP), Graduate Sciences Program) gathered for orientation at NOAA headquarters in summer 2012. I’m pictured as the 4th person behind the 4th person from the left front. Look hard! I didn’t know it then, but several folks in this group would become friends and colleagues, like Manda Chasteen, center front 2nd row. (Photo: NOAA)

Without the Hollings program, I probably wouldn’t have pursued (or gotten into) graduate school. I also wouldn’t have learned so much about NOAA, how it works, and how many fascinating careers there are in public service that will let me actually do research while serving society. I noticed all of those things at one time or another, but it was not until quite recently that I understood how much they had really guided my journey over the years.

2013 Student Science & Education Symposium Winners Left to Right: Amanda Tine, McKenna Stanford, ME!, Derrick Jones, Gretchen Stokes, Mali’o Kodis, Michelle Frazer, Jacquelyn Ringhausen, David Kennedy (NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations), Paige Pruisner, Alexander Jensen, Grace Young, Ariana Meltvedt Snow, Conor McNicholas, Marlene Kaplan (Dep. Director of Education) (photo: NOAA)

All in all – it seems obvious that I would end up working in NOAA research, but I didn’t know that until now. I wouldn’t have made it here without the support of so many people and the faith that a lot of people put in me. I am so excited to start this chapter of my career and do my part in serving the public. I’m going to try a little harder to remember to see the forest instead of the trees and celebrate how amazing this really is everyday.

Science-A-Thon 2019

I’m participating in this year’s Science-A-Thon!

From the scienceathon.org page: “Science-A-Thon is a five-day celebration of science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM!), science professionals, science teachers, science journalists, and anyone else who uses science in their day – from the lab to the field, from learning to teaching, from routine tasks to major discoveries! Science-A-Thon 2019 will raise money for three amazing partner charities that support women’s advancement in STEM: the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN)Girls Who Code, and the Society of Women Engineers! The goal of Science-A-Thon is to increase visibility of scientists and the important work they do for the public.”

As a participant I post to my social media feeds about what a #dayofscience looks like! Those posts are all compiled here. Search your favorite social media feed for ScienceAThon or #dayofscience to learn more about what everyday scientists do. Consider donating to the cause here!

Continue reading “Science-A-Thon 2019”

Update From the Field: TORUS [24 May 2019]

We’ve just wrapped up day 10 of TORUS operations in the eastern Texas panhandle. There have been a couple down days sprinkled in, but overall we have been running hard for this campaign. The weather pattern has been conducive for supercell thunderstorms since we started, so almost everyday has brought an opportunity to collect data. In these first 10 days, the TORUS team has already had a few pretty successful missions! Continue reading “Update From the Field: TORUS [24 May 2019]”