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SUMMER 2014 Newsletter

It is always with a tinge of sadness that we say goodbye to the SOARS protégés at the end of summer. But it is also with pride that we look at how far these vibrant, talented students have come in just eleven short weeks. With the support of an incredible team of mentors, each SOARS protégé conducted original research, wrote a scientific paper, gave two presentations and presented a poster.  As the summer program drew to a close we gathered for a final reflection and review. We heard things like, "This experience has changed my life," and "I have found my niche," and "I know I want to do research."  This is why we run SOARS. Yet perhaps most importantly, we saw the close knit community that had grown over the summer. This sense of belonging, friendship and connection remains the heart of SOARS, and, as I connected with our alumni to bring you their latest news, it was clear that this connection remains long after the summer draws to a close.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our program.  In this newsletter we will not only share some of the highlights of the summer, but some of the amazing accomplishments of our alumni.  We also wanted to draw your attention to a new program at UCAR to help our scientists and engineers visit and teach at colleges and universities across the nation. If you know of a department that could take advantage of this opportunity, please help us to spread the word.

Bec Batchelor, on behalf of the SOARS team

Group photo


Highlights from the Summer

As it tends to do, the summer flew by in a whirl of research, writing assignments, visitors and career discussions. Proteges participated in scientific communications workshops, leadership training, stress management seminars and group reflection. Here were some of our additional highlights.

Feeling out the ‘grad school thing’

CSU tour

Alum Aaron Pina shows protégés Arianna, Carlos and Brandt the CSU atmospheric sciences library (above) and proteges visit the skywatch observatory at CU-Boulder (below)

CU-Boulder ATOC tour

With a large cohort of undergraduates this year, SOARS followed the interests of the students and spent much of our seminar series this summer talking about grad school.  We enlisted the help of our university partners to help us cover the application process, what departments are looking for and to get a taste of what graduate school might be like.  We spent a day at CSU, where faculty, students and several of our SOARS alumni talked with the protégés and interns from NOAA and the CSU REU program, and guided a tour of their facilities.  We visited the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department at CU-Boulder, and talked with the visiting REU group from Oklahoma University about opportunities there.  We were even fortunate to have Professor Christopher Castro from the University of Arizona (and SOARS alum) visit and share his experiences. Several of our protégés commented at the end of the summer that they felt much better prepared to apply to and attend graduate school based on these experiences.


SOARS Academy students with the Doppler on WheelsVisiting SOARS Academy students work with the Doppler on Wheels

As part of our efforts to expand the reach of SOARS, in June, 13 undergraduate and community college students from around the country came to Boulder to try out SOARS for a week. The program, called the SOARS Academy, allowed students to spend some time with a science mentor and with the SOARS protégés, tour NCAR’s Mesa Lab and the RAL airport, and get a taste of doing research firsthand.  A perfectly timed storm blew in while they were launching a weather balloon with EOL and collecting Doppler RADAR data with the Center for Severe Weather Research.  After intensively crunching data in groups for one day, they presented their results alongside the protégés during the SOARS practice talks.  The students said that they were invigorated by the experience, and several of them indicated that they would be applying to SOARS next year.

As we frequently do, SOARS also briefly hosted many of the students from Oklahoma University’s REU program. A shared meal, the opportunity to talk about graduate school in atmospheric and meteorological sciences and the chance to tour NCAR, as well as many of the sights in Colorado, were all part of their agenda. 

Science presentations

Gene presenting

Protégé Gene Cody presents his work to judge and SOARS alum Talea Mayo.

The students presented their projects during the final week of the summer program. On Monday, July 28, protégés presented their research to an audience of NCAR scientists and mentors. Our NSF program officer, Bernard Grant, flew in for the event. Friends, family, and the NSF community connected to the event via webcast. The students shone. Their research was well conducted and well-articulated, their presentations polished and their enthusiasm contagious. On Thursday, they joined interns from our sister programs RESESS (Earth science), NEON (ecological sciences), RECCS (community college), DCERC (data curation for education), and PRECIP (pre-college) for a fantastic poster session and celebration of their summer research.  These fifty-six talented interns and their posters left us confident that the future of science is in good hands.

Brandt and mentorsProtégé Brandt Scott (bottom left) discusses the MPOD sensor he used to make field measurements of ozone, contributing to the FRAPPE field campaign, to mentors (from left to right) Mike Hannigan, John Orlando, Jula Lee-Taylor and Carl Drews.


For all of us who have ever been involved in SOARS, it goes without saying that our mentors are the heart and soul of this program, and without them this would not be possible. Thank you to all our mentors for giving freely of your time, your experience and your skills! While we are often fortunate to have SOARS alum serving as mentors, this year was a record, with 9 alumni serving as research, writing or community mentors. Several more acted as judges at our poster session, or talked with our proteges during seminars and visits. We really appreciate this commitment to giving back!


On the subject of mentoring, please check out this mentoring video by UCARConnect, featuring SOARS mentor Chris Davis, SOARS protégé Erin Dougherty and photos from many of our SOARS family.


University visits in scientific interaction and teaching (UVisit)

Did you know that a UCAR scientist or engineer could be sponsored to visit your university?

The UCAR President's Office sponsors UVISIT to enable scientists and engineers from NCAR and UCAR to spend time interacting and collaborating with university faculty and students at North American Universities. This may be for workshops, lectureships, collaborative research, teaching or other valuable collaborations. Applications are ongoing - please help us spread the word, especially to smaller and traditionally under-represented schools! More information can be found at



The SOARS family continues to excel! It is always with pride that we update our graduation figure and see how many STEM Bachelor's, Master's and PhD degrees we have been a small part of. It is also great to hear about the fellowships awarded, exciting positions taken up and papers published by our alumni. Please let us know if you have more news for our database.

STEM degrees


Sarah Al-Momar (2012-2014), Arianna Varuolo-Clarke (2014) and Erin Dougherty (2014) were awarded travel grants to attend the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting, while Eliza Nobles (2014) was awarded a SACNAS travel fellowship to attend the 2014 SACNAS National Conference.

Eowyn Baughman (2008, 2010) graduated from the University of Washington with a MS degree and began working as a wind energy analyst at 3Tier, a renewable energy firm in downtown Seattle.

Christopher Castro (1996) was awarded a Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (NEXUS) Fellowship. One of only 20 internationally selected NEXUS scholars, Christopher will engage in multidisciplinary, team-based research on climate change and adaptation strategies in the Western Hemisphere. Read more here.

Dereka Carroll (2010, 2012, 2013) graduated with her MS from Purdue University has started a PhD at the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana.

Alisha Fernandez (2005-2008):  Completed her PhD in Energy and Mineral Engineering, Energy Management and Policy at the Pennsylvania State University and is now working at the Department of Energy in the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office managing the hydropower portfolio for DOE.

Deanna Hence (2003, 2004): was appointed as an Associate Professor in the Atmospheric Sciences Department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and began work this fall.

Javier Lujan (2011, 2012): began an MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) this fall at Oklahoma University, and is doing research under Dr. Caleb Fulton in the Radar Innovations Laboratory (RIL). 

Maximo Menchaca (2009, 2010) received his Master's from the University of Washington for his thesis "Modeling a Midlatitude Cyclone Impinging on Localized Orography" and was admitted into the PhD program. He also just presented his work at the 16th Conference on Mountain Meteorology.

Annareli Morales (2011, 2012) successfully defended her Master’s thesis in August and has moved to Ann Arbor, MI for a PhD position at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor working in Dr. Derek Posselt's group. 

Daniel Pollak (2009-2011) graduated from the European Wind Energy Masters Program in August 2014, receiving a MSc in Wind Energy Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark and a MSc in Engineering Wind Physics from the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Rosimar Rios-Berrios (2011, 2013) was selected as department representative to UAlbany's Future Faculty Leadership Council, and presented a talk entitled "Application of Ensemble Forecasts to Investigate Tropical Cyclone Intensity: Hurricane Katia (2011)" at the 31st AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in San Diego and at the World Weather Open Science Conference in Montreal, Quebec

Sarah Tessendorf (1999-2002) was promoted from Project Scientist I to Project Scientist II at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Cecille Villanueva-Birriel (2007, 2008) completed her  PhD in Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University and began a post-doc working under the supervision of Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium.  She also had a paper published:

Villanueva-Birriel, C. M., Lasher-Trapp, S., Trapp, R. J., & Diffenbaugh, N. S. (2014). Sensitivity of the Warm Rain Process in Convective Clouds to Regional Climate Change in the Contiguous U.S. Journal of Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation, 1, 1–17.

Vanessa Vincente (2009-2011) graduated with an MS in Atmospheric Science from CSU in May and is working for the Larimer County Department of Emergency Management and Recovery as a "Disaster Recovery Intern" and at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as a "Museum Educator Performer"

Curtis Walker (2010-2012) began work on a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Melanie Zauscher (2002-2004) started a post doc position at the University of San Diego in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry and environmental and ocean sciences.

Applications for SOARS 2015

Word of mouth remains our best source of advertising for SOARS. If you know a talented undergraduate who would benefit from SOARS, please encourage them to apply! Applications for next year's cohort will open in November and close on February 1st, 2015. More details can be found on the SOARS website,