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SPRING 2013 Newsletter


Hi SOARS family, and welcome to our spring newsletter!

Our SOARS protégés and alumni continue to inspire and impress me, and I am pleased to be able to share some of their many accomplishments with you in this newsletter.  As we were about to send this newsletter, word arrived that four of our protégés have been awarded competitive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships this year. Congratulations to Dereka Carroll, Ana Ordoñez, Diamilet Perez-Betancourt and Curtis Walker! We are also excited to be able to share the story of one of SOARS very first protégés, Preston Heard, and to welcome our newest SOARS staff additions, Laura Allen and Helen Satchwell. Finally, as a feature this month, we take on an issue close to the hearts of many of us… once you have an advanced degree, what should you do with it?

While SOARS primarily aims to support our protégés move into and succeed at graduate school, perhaps an even tougher life decision comes after graduation. Up to that point, the academic path has been fairly well defined, then suddenly the signposts have gone, the opportunities are open and the paths are many. For me, the end of my PhD was not only a time of celebration, but also one of terrifying uncertainty as I tried to navigate the maze of international opportunities, academic or private endeavors, family versus career commitments, applications and of course, waiting. In this newsletter we ask some of our soon-to-be-doctorates the questions they’re grappling with and let some of our talented alumni who have successfully navigated the waters share their stories. 

We hope you enjoy our newsletter. If there are stories you’d like to see in upcoming editions, or you have comments about what you read in this issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Bec Batchelor, on behalf of the SOARS team




Javier at WeatherfestRight: Protégé Javier Luthan demonstrates conservation of angular momentum at WeatherFest

Below: Protégé Vanessa Almanza with some young conference attendees

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting was held January 5 - 10, 2013 in Austin, Texas. We had a great turnout from SOARS! For a full list of SOARS presentations at the conference, see here.

SOARS held its annual AMS gathering at a local restaurant, with nearly 30 SOARS protégés, alumni and staff taking the chance to catch up and enjoy lunch together.

Before presenting their research at the AMS conference, several SOARS protégés demonstrated the fun side of science at WeatherFest, a science education event for families. Protégé Vanessa Almanza described seeing the expressions on kids’ faces as they saw something unexpected as a memorable part of WeatherFest. Vanessa felt that being a SOARS protégé helped her bring a unique perspective to explaining science in a clear, concise, and understandable way for people of all ages.

Vanessa at WeatherfestThe SOARS Program includes specialized training and opportunities for protégés to learn and practice communicating science to a variety of audiences. The weekly Communications Workshops during the summer program and the opportunity to participate in educational, outreach, and media events are some of the ways that SOARS enhances the skill of communicating science. Vanessa shared that, “Through outreach projects such as the WeatherFest, I was able to apply the communication tools I learned from SOARS to help the public enjoy our demonstrations and learn something new. I find that talking to the public gives me practice in becoming an effective communicator, and when the public becomes interested in my research, the added interest provides more motivation for me.”

Great job to all the SOARS protégés who presented research at the conference, won awards for outstanding work, and demonstrated the fun of science at WeatherFest!



Do you have news? Drop us a note to have it included in our next newsletter!

Anthony Didlake was awarded his PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. He joined the NASA Postdoctoral Program and started a postdoc at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Jenny Eav accepted a graduate student research position to do research in India this summer to test a wireless electronic datalogging device that tracks cook-stove use for her master's thesis research.

Aisha Haynes was accepted into the NOAA Graduate Science Program working at the National Weather Service.

Imani Morris was accepted to the Summer 2013 Cohort of the Georgia Teaching Fellows Greater Atlanta Program to encourage minority participation in STEM fields in the Atlanta metro area.

Ana Ordoñez won the Maryland Sea Grant and NOAA Award for an outstanding research presentation at the SACNAS 2012 National Conference.

Andre Perkins received his B.S. in Atmospheric & Oceanic Science and B.S. in Computer Sciences from University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Daniel Pollack began his dual degree Erasmus Mundis scholarship European Wind Energy Master's degree to receive an MSc and MEng in Wind Energy from the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Oldenburg. Daniel spent the fall at DTU (Danish Tech) and will spend the spring at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Nancy Rivera was awarded her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from University of Texas at El Paso.

Frances Roberts-Gregory was accepted into the MSPHD's Program in the 2012 Earth System Science Cohort.

Luna Rodriguez was awarded her PhD in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University

Dione Rossiter was awarded her PhD in Earth and Planetary Science. She accepted a position as Project Director in the Education and Human Resources Directorate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and manages the Mass Media Fellows Program.

Sarah Tessendorf has recently had three co-authored papers accepted for publication:

Xue, L., A. Hashimoto, S.A. Tessendorf, R. Rasmussen, D. Breed, S. Parkinson, P. Holbrook, and D. Blestrud, 2013: AgI cloud seeding effects as seen in WRF simulations. Part I: Model description and idealized 2D sensitivity tests. J. Appl. Meteor. Clim., in press.

Xue, L., S.A. Tessendorf, E. Nelson, R. Rasmussen, D. Breed, S. Parkinson, P. Holbrook, and D. Blestrud, 2013: AgI cloud seeding effects as seen in WRF simulations. Part II: 3D real case studies and sensitivity tests. J. Appl. Meteor. Clim., in press.

Mullendore, G.L., A.J. Homann, S.T. Jorgenson, T.J. Lang, and S.A. Tessendorf, 2013: Relationship between level of neutral buoyancy and dual-Doppler observed mass detrainment levels in deep convection. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 181-190.

Melanie Zuscher was awarded her PhD in Engineering Sciences and started a science and technology policy fellowship through the California Council on Science and Technology. She will be working in the California State Assembly.


News from Kabul

It was with great surprise that I answered the office phone in early March to talk to one of SOARS’ first protégés, Preston Heard (pictured here with mentor Benjamin Felzer in 1999). It was an even bigger a surprise to discover he was calling me from Kabul, Afghanistan. It is with pleasure that I’m able to share his story.

Preston Heard 1998Above: SOARS alumnus Preston Heard, shown here with his SOARS mentor Benjamin Felzer in 1999.

Preston participated in the (pre-SOARS) Summer Employment Program at NCAR in 1994 and 1995 and worked in UCAR’s Office of Field Project Support. As SOARS was being developed with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he remembers joining his fellow interns in a meeting with Dr. Neal Lane, NSF Director, and being asked what would motivate students to enter and stay in the atmospheric and related sciences. Many of the suggestions shared look familiar to those of us involved in SOARS today, including making it a multiple-year program of various research experiences and putting a strong emphasis on mentoring.

Preston participated in SOARS’ first year in 1996, and again from 1998-2000.  He worked on a number of topics, including radar hydrology, lightning-produced nitrogen oxides in mesoscale convective systems, modeling of precipitation anomalies in future climate scenarios, and patterns of historic flood events and the resulting economic damage. In 2001, he interned at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Preston joined GAO in 2002 after graduating from Indiana University with an MS in Environmental Science and an MPA in Policy Analysis and, by 2005, he was a Senior Analyst responsible for leading assessments of the Department of Energy’s nuclear non-proliferation and security programs. Beginning in 2007, Preston spearheaded several cyber security posture reviews at the nuclear weapons laboratories and, in January 2011, he joined GAO’s Congressional Relations office as an Associate Legislative Advisor. In this position, he directed efforts to keep the Comptroller General of the United States and GAO’s Senior Executives updated on Congressional developments.  Preston was also responsible for a number of initiatives that led to efficiencies in GAO’s operations and improved relationships with the Congress. He enjoyed keeping tabs on a huge range of issues and providing information critical to the Comptroller General and the Hill. In November 2012, Preston joined the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction as a Senior Program Manager (a civilian appointment). He has been in Kabul, Afghanistan for the last 3 months and is managing teams of auditors and specialists responsible for oversight of reconstruction activities.  

Looking back, he says his time in SOARS and research conducted with some of the world’s leading scientists prepared him well for the critical thinking, writing, oral communication and collaboration skills that have been very important for him throughout his career. He also credits mentoring he received in SOARS as a key factor in his success. Preston says he had many excellent scientific mentors, but he particularly credits his writing mentors, Marie Boyko (former Manager of Education and Outreach Programs, now at the University of Colorado) and Harriett Barker (former Vice President for Corporate Affairs, now retired) for teaching the principles of effective writing.  He says those lessons continue to serve him well as he prepares briefs and reports that are presented in Washington. He also credits Mickey Glantz, former social scientist at NCAR, for opening his eyes to the importance of communicating with policy makers and impacting policy decisions, as this is the route he ultimately chose to follow. Most importantly, Preston shared his appreciation for the commitment his community mentors, Bob Roesch and Steve Sadler, provide him. He says these two gentlemen continue to give guidance, support, and encouragement, which has been critical to his career development and success.

Here at SOARS, we have continued to appreciate the support Preston has given us through the years, serving as a friend in Washington and a reliably friendly face whenever our staff or alumni have found themselves on the Hill. We really appreciate being able to share his story, and wish him much success, enjoyment and safety during his time in Afghanistan.


Changes at SOARS

Laura AllenIt is with great pleasure that we introduce Laura Allen (left) as our new program coordinator. Laura has worked in Spark (UCAR’s Science Education division) for more than 10 years. There her varied roles have helped make climate science research accessible to society through education.

Helen Satchwell
Karen Smith-Herman has meanwhile moved over the Foothills Parkway to Spark, though she will continue to be the SOARS travel and scholarship coordinator. She looks forward to continued interaction with the SOARS protégés.

We are also happy to welcome Helen Satchwell (right) to the team. She is an undergraduate at UC-Boulder, where she is studying linguistics. She will be working part-time in the SOARS office and helping us maintain our databases and website.


Got the degree? Now what?

While the march through the education system may seem endless, at some point you’ll reach the end of your Master's or PhD degree, and have to make some decisions on where your Earth Science degree will take you. Data collected by NSF and presented by the American Geosciences Institute show atmospheric and space scientists to be employed not only in academia, but also in the environmental industry, consulting companies, and federal, state and local government. PhD Earth Scientists may also be found in management, engineering, retail, law, precision manufacturing, in the insurance and banking industries and, of course, behind the lab bench. As the opportunities open out in front of you, making a decision about where to take your degree may be one of the most challenging decisions you encounter. 

Here, three of our SOARS alumni, Anastasia Yanchilina (SOARS 2007, 2009), Deanna Hence (SOARS 2003, 2004) and Melissa Burt (SOARS 2003-2005), who have recently completed or are reaching the ends of their PhDs, ask the questions on their minds, and our panel, also made up of SOARS alumni, respond.


Tanya Craft (SOARS 2003, 2004) graduated with an MS in Computational Science and Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University, and is now a Subsurface and Wells Application Support Analyst with Shell Exploration and Production.

Anthony Didlake (SOARS 2004-2006) graduated with a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington in 2012, and is now a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sharon Kenny (SOARS 1997-1999) graduated with an MS in Civil/Environmental Engineering from CU Boulder in 2003 and is now an Environmental Engineer at the US EPA.

Dione Rossiter (SOARS 2003, 2004), graduated with a PhD in Earth Sciences from UC Santa Cruz in 2012, and is now a project director at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Sarah Tessendorf (SOARS 1999-2002) graduated with a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from Colorado State University in 2006 and is now a project scientist at NCAR, jointly between RAL and GLOBE.


I chose to work in IT focused on Subsurface and Wells Applications and Exception-based Surveillance within the Oil Industry.  It was a decision as much as it was guidance into that area. Tanya Craft

While my ultimate career path isn’t yet set in stone, I did choose to continue my hurricane research as a postdoc. Postdoctoral appointments are a great way to start your career in the research field. This appointment will give me time to advance my research and build my skillset before searching for a more permanent position. Anthony Didlake

While completing my Master's degree in Civil Engineering, I applied to various job openings, all in different sectors.  My career path was not predefined; my only requirement was to be able to have a balanced life while working full time.  I had job offers from large corporations, consulting firms, local government, and academia, but decided to join the federal government, accepting a position with the U.S. EPA because they offered a variety of work schedules (including alternate work locations). Sharon Kenny

I went into STEM education, outreach, and communication. I always wanted to follow this path. I went to graduate school with the understanding I would come out a much stronger applicant even if I didn’t search for jobs in academia, or even pure science. Dione Rossiter

I chose to do a post-doc in the same field as my PhD (Atmospheric Science); however, I chose to pursue a new aspect of my field in my post-doc.  While I studied observations in grad school, I chose to learn how to use a cloud-resolving model in my post-doc.  It was a challenge to switch gears.  And my post-doc got cut short, so I didn't get a publication out of it.  Rather, I spent the time learning new skills and just did some preliminary research.  The pro to that was learning a new skill, the con was the lack of publication. Sarah Tessendorf


Shell recruitment looked at my previous experience and placed me in the best suited area within the company. Tanya Craft

My graduate advisor played an instrumental role in helping me make my career decisions. I also received a lot of good advice from other graduate students in my department and in SOARS. Anthony Didlake

Yes, many. In particular, Raj [Pandya] was helpful in me deciding to do a graduate degree in science rather than science education because he had demonstrated in his own career that the science degree could be useful for a successful career in science education. Dione Rossiter

I used one of my professors from grad school as a resource (I had done well in their class and he knew the person I was seeking a post-doc with well) who recommended me to my post-doc advisor.  That really helped me get my foot in the door for my post-doc. Sarah Tessendorf

The ability to adapt and stay focused on always learning and working hard. Tanya Craft

Perseverance: willingness to try and try again is essential to succeeding in anything, including engineering. Other personality traits include self-discipline, secure high self-esteem, and self-motivation. I think that analytical skills, attention to detail, and confidence are other key ingredients. Last but not least, it is important to be patient, tolerant, and possess a strong work ethic. Sharon Kenny

I really had one goal in mind all through graduate school, and that was to leave and get a job in STEM education, outreach, and communication. I made sure I was always connecting and networking within the education arena at the same time I was networking within the pure science arena. I stayed focused and always looked for opportunities to expand my CV outside of writing papers and taking classes. Dione Rossiter

Networking!!  Having good mentors to help me with applications, proposals, etc. (and using those mentors to help me revise my applications and proposals, etc).  Also, learning how to market my skills rather than my experience.  What I mean is that I may not have had direct management experience of a science project, but I had management and leadership skills from being officers in my AMS chapter, or other similar roles.  I made sure to highlight that I had the skills to do the jobs I applied for, if I didn't have the experience to show for it. Sarah Tessendorf


During my post-doc (still in science field), since I worked for a university, I chose to take an education class (for free!) while doing my post-doc.  That gave me a bit more formal training in education and some new connections to and views on the field.  Then after getting my first job as a researcher, I did a lot of volunteer work for education-related things.  In the last few years I've been fortunate enough to have a position where I am half-time science research and half-time education.  It took a lot of networking to get this position, as it is very unique.  It allows me to gain new skills in the field of education, but it is a challenge to wear both hats at the same time, especially because my two halves don't connect at all.  Now I'm striving to find a position that gives me a better blend of the two (science research and education).  It is not an easy thing to find, but some opportunities exist and more than anything I'm just trying to carve out my own, by writing proposals and trying to create projects that allow me to do both.  It is still a work in progress. Sarah Tessendorf


Lack of work experience in my field presented itself as a barrier.  Experience working in the lab or doing internships in research institutions (e.g., NCAR) was not highly regarded in comparison to Co-op employment or part time job experience. Sharon Kenny

I had NO idea how to find a non-academic job! I didn’t know the procedure. I didn’t know where to look. I didn’t know where not to look. I didn’t know whom to talk to. I didn’t know how to prepare once I got an interview. I had no idea how unprepared I was until I was right in the middle of unemployment. I had gone 10 years of academic schooling in the sciences—no one ever told me, or thought to tell me, how it worked outside of academia. I really had to reach out to my non-science friends to find answers. Dione Rossiter

Lack of formal training in education, even though I had already taken one class.  I had been naive in grad school (the time when I realized I wanted to do something education-related as well) that it would be "easier" to get my science degree and then transition into education, rather than get my education PhD and remain in science.  While the latter would have probably been hard as well (my role in science research benefits greatly from having my PhD in science, and even my current role in education benefits from me having my PhD in science), I was blind to think that education was somehow easier.  It's a completely different field, with different language, roles, purposes, etc.  If you really want to do both like I am, I think that you need to work to build experience and/or formal training in both.  I am glad I did it the way I did, it just was frustrating for me at first that it took "so long" to get into the education arena.  Looking back, it didn't take me *that* long after my PhD, but I was just anxious to step into the education world, and wasn't being patient in those early post-graduate years. Sarah Tessendorf


Before deciding where to apply for a postdoc, I researched the available positions within my field of study. I did this by looking online for position announcements and talking with my advisor and other students. I chose to apply to the positions that had the most interesting research possibilities and that provided funding. These positions were available at universities and research labs across the country. Ultimately I decided on a postdoc that best fit my career goals and also allowed me to have a good quality of life. Anthony Didlake

I applied to several post-doc fellowships (ASP, CIRES Post-doc fellowships, NRC post-docs, and the UCAR Climate Global Change post-doc program).  There are also plenty of other post-doc positions that just get announced as normal job openings, but I wasn't aware of any of those at the time, and I wanted to carve out a post-doc that was what I wanted to do.  The fellowship programs allow you to write a mini-proposal for what you want to work on and seek an advisor that will guide you on that.  Given that I had already made contact with my advisor, he helped me revise my proposals and was on the lookout for my applications when they came to him for review.  I only ended up getting 2 of the 4 fellowships I applied for, but it was better than nothing and I still was able to choose which of those two was best for me. Sarah Tessendorf


If you're at this point in your life, or would like to discuss anything in this article, please remember that the SOARS staff are here to help! Feel free to drop us a note:


Conference Presentations


AMS Annual Conference, Austin, TX, January 2013


Javier Lujan: “Design and Construction of the HIAPER Cloud Radar Control and Safety Subsystem.”

Logan Dawson: “Probabilistic forecasts of severe convection with a WRF-DART analysis and convection-permitting forecast system.” - Won 1st place student award for poster presentation at the Weather and Forecasting (WAF) symposium!

Dereka Carroll: “Mapping Social Vulnerability to Landfalling Hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin.”

Sarah Al-Momar: “Relating Electrified Cloud Properties to Wilson Currents: an Oceanic and Continental Case Study.” Won 1st place for the best undergraduate poster session!

Ana Ortiz: “Effects of tropical deep convection on upper tropospheric ozone concentrations.”

Vanessa Almanza: “Role of Sensible and Latent Heat Fluxes from the Ocean in the Genesis of Tropical Cyclone Nargis (2008).”

Manny Hernandez: “The Change of the North American Monsoon Seasonal Precipitation in the CCSMv4 under IPCC CO2 Emission Scenarios.”

Jenny Eav: “Characterization of Metal Concentrations in PM2.5 and PM10-2.5 in Rural and Urban Colorado.”  - Won 2nd place for best poster presentation, 15th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry!

Annareli Morales: “Sensitivity of a Simulated Deep Convective Storm to WRF Microphysical Schemes and Horizontal Resolution.”

Cecille Villaneva-Birriel: "Microphysical Differences Resulting from Regional Climate Change in Simulated Deep Convective Storms."

Oral Presentations

Matthew Burger: “An Examination of the Link between Decadal Changes in Precipitation, Winds, and Sea Surface Heights in the Tropical Indo-Pacific during the Period 1993–2010.”

Andre Perkins: “Increasing the Efficiency of GOES-Chem Adjoint Model Runs Using a Python Ensemble Manager.”

Ana Ordoñez: “Energy Extraction from Ocean Currents and Waves: Mapping the Most Promising Locations.”

Curtis Walker: “The Impact of Cloud Type on Surface Radiation and Road Pavement Temperature.”

Monika Wnuk: “Participatory Action Research as a model for coastal Louisiana and a contributor to science writing.”

Frances Roberts-Gregory: “Ethnobotanical conversations along the bayou: an exercise in Participatory Action Research (PAR) blending Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and geospatial information systems in order to identify vulnerable plant species valued by southern Louisiana's coastal Native American tribes.”

Sandra Maina: “Protecting South Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana through the development of Vanishing Points: an iPhone application motivating community and national involvement in coastal restoration efforts.”