How would you say people react to you as a meteorologist? Can you also talk about the industry at large and how it helps to nurture new talent?
Meteorology is a very distinct career to begin with. Often the questions I get are, “What do you study to become a meteorologist?”
“Wait you’re a what?!”
“Are you on TV?” and the most popular question, “How does a green screen work?” To me, all questions are valid and I enjoy enlightening people on the wickedly awesome discipline known as meteorology.
The business to me is actually very nurturing. Nurturing in the way where your cool older cousins say,”Hey do you want to learn how to swim?” and then playfully pushes you into the pool. I like it. There’s a quote out there that states, “You never know how strong you are until it’s the only option you have.” When that red light comes on it’s go time. You’re live and don’t have a choice but to perform at top quality. The pressure of the business may be well over 1000 milibars, but it’s only then that the finest diamonds are formed.
Remark on how the significance of your support system from family and friends helped you to grow during your formative years before you settled on what you wanted as a career.
My father is a surgeon and my mother is a midwife/therapist. Science has always been a fascinating venture we all pursued in my home. They were very supportive when I said I
wanted to become a meteorologist. My mother taught me an awesome lesson as a child, “Don’t tell everyone, everything, Somara!” She told me that not all people would understand or appreciate my dream. Their lack of belief may wear down my spirit. Therefore, I only told people my dream if my truth felt safe in their company and my spirit was free to be vulnerable.
My father and mother came to this country with very little and knew that the most lucrative and essential tool was their mind. Therefore my father made it his life’s mission to make sure all his children received an education. My sister and friends have been amazing and have always encouraged me to persevere.
As a graduate of the Penn State University what were some of the research projects you participated in? Can you discuss how NASA and NOAA helped to
impact some of your work?
I read somewhere once that a very small amount of graduating meteorologists actually go into the TV business. That’s the great thing about atmospheric science. There are so many facets. Penn State has one of the best programs in the country. While there, I was exposed to the opportunity to visit China and conduct research on the eutriphication of Lake Taihu, which basically means that I’m studying the oxygen death of China’s third largest freshwater lake. I also got the opportunity to partake in NASA-funded research in Beltsville, Maryland, as a research assistant.
The project was spearheaded by Dr. Jose Fuentes and grad student David Doughty. They were so awesome to work with and they taught me so much. I measured hydrocarbons using a proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTR-MS) and studied ozone profiles. Dr. Vernon Morris of the NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Howard University gave me a great opportunity. The objective of this project was to evaluate the potential contribution of lightning and biomass burning in South America and Africa on ozone concentrations at various levels in the tropical upper troposphere during various times of the year in comparison to in situ-data obtained during the AEROSE cruises.
I worked with the Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory model. These endeavors opened my eyes to the many applications of the science I was pursuing.
Read more about the impact of black meteorologists on the next page …