What is your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences?
My family in Indiana was one generation removed from the farm. But everyone still talked about the weather and how it affected crops and other activities. I thought everyone did that! A specific event was when what is now called a derecho came through my region and destroyed ninety percent of the trees in the large city park where I had often visited. It was impressive and yet its cause was unknown at the time.
What was your first job in the field and how did you end up in the job you are in now?
I was a Summer Student Trainee in what was then the Weather Bureau for three summers while in meteorology undergraduate and graduate school. It was obvious quickly that this is where I belonged— weather in general. The Student Trainee program allowed us to stay on the federal employee roster during the school year. So after receiving an M.S., I was able to transition smoothly into a full-time position—for a total of 38 years.
What opportunities did you pursue that you knew would be beneficial to securing a job in the profession?
I always enjoyed writing and English. I wrote a masters thesis when almost no one at my university had taken the thesis option, and instead took more coursework. Amazingly, that fact made me stand our when it was time to be considered for a full-time position that involved assembling and writing reports and papers the first week on the full-time job.
What other courses/skills beyond the required math and science courses do you think would be the most helpful to individuals wanting a career in your profession?
Having a well-rounded education makes a large difference—it's not only the technical skills. As an undergraduate, I needed one more history course to finish on time, so I chose "History of Africa South of the Sahara." I have used it every day in recent years, and enjoy the vast cultural and historical backgrounds. Take an interest and run with it; don't be influenced by the idea that no one else is doing it. It's your path; run with your interests.
What is your typical day on the job like?
For most of my career, I have done research, written papers, and collaborated with others. Every week in this Zoom era involves interactions with people in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Europe, and around the U.S. I enjoy long attention-span projects, but also enjoy the transition from one set of people and ideas to others.
What do you like most about your job? What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Studying and talking about weather can hardly be boring! Working with like-minded people makes it easy. Finding time to do everything of interest is the largest problem.
Does your job allow for a good work/life balance? If not, why?
Yes, I try to turn off the computer in the evening to keep from dwelling on ideas non-stop. Sometime walking away for a few hours or days is the best way to clarify and prioritize tasks.
Over the course of your career what is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?
When I left graduate school, I went to work for Dr. Joanne Simpson and Dr. Robert Simpson. The lessons learned at the highest possible level of meteorology were dramatic. One of the outcomes of their influence was to always work with students in any way that was possible because that's just how things are always done. I was also asked by Dr. Ted Fujita to come to his lab at the University of Chicago. He asked me if I would take over his lab in due time—no one could follow him!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?
Probably more computer skills, but that was a very highly skilled and all-consuming path to follow early in my career.
What are some "must haves" on a resume if a person wants to gain employment in your field?
If you want to be a professional meteorologist, act like one. Join the AMS, participate in the local AMS chapter, read the published literature intensively (not only blogs), visit the local NWS office, talk to people in private industry, and go to conferences to hear the science and meet people. If you do those activities, you will know what the field is about, and connections are made. If you don't actively show real interest, then maybe you aren't made to be a professional meteorologist, and someone else will take your place in the ranking of who to hire.