Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

Xi Chen


Xi Chen

“Climate & Space was a natural choice.”

Xi Chen doesn’t recall a defining moment when he realized he was interested in pursuing a career in the sciences. Instead, he thinks his parents (who are both professors) had a definitive influence on him. “My mother teaches calculus, and my father teaches mechanics. I think I must have been gradually but immensely influenced by them, little by little.”

 Originally from China, Xi spent his undergrad years at Peking University earning a BS in Atmospheric Sciences. He says it was the University of Michigan’s “excellent reputation worldwide” that influenced his decision to come to Climate & Space (then called AOSS) for his PhD. He was also impressed with the significant contributions of CLaSP Professor Joyce Penner (later his advisor) to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “AOSS was a natural choice.”

Chen’s primary interest is in dynamical core development which he describes as the engine that drives atmospheric models. “The dynamical core development is one branch of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) applications.” His decision to pursue this direction was formed during his tenure at U-M: “This scientific area is the foundation for a massive portion of the modern atmospheric research. However, it is difficult to master the skill of dynamical core development because it requires the comprehensive understanding and integration of applied math, fluid dynamics, numerical analysis, and computer programming. Therefore, not many universities offer dynamical core training.”

At Climate & Space, Chen found several professors with numerical method-oriented research interests. Further, he says the proximity of the U-M Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Departments, and their faculty helped in his research. “Some professors in those departments essentially made the modern CFD possible. If I cannot find the answer from these professors, there is a good chance this problem is not solved yet in CFD." 

After he left CLaSP, Chen became a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) at Princeton University. Currently, he’s an Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University's program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at GFDL. “I am a dynamical core developer in the FV3 team. FV3 was developed by Dr. S.J. Lin, which has been powering many prominent climate models.” Indeed. The FV3 model was adopted by the National Weather Service in 2016, and the agency is using the model to develop its next-generation global prediction system.   

Chen’s current focus is weather-related applications. At NOAA, he has access to the agency’s NOAA High-Performance Computer system, which aids researchers in simulating the atmosphere globally at a 3-kilometer resolution, a much finer area than previously possible. At this scale, Chen and his fellow researchers are able to directly simulate many atmospheric physics processes (such as cloud formation) not previously visible at lower resolution. He says, “Exploring this ‘uncharted water’ is quite exciting.”

Xi credits the Climate & Space Department for providing the educational foundation needed for his career. “[CLaSP] is one of the few places that can provide the necessary training for dynamical core developers. I was fortunate to be advised by and to work with Professor Joyce Penner. She has a brilliant vision of the whole field, and which directions the field is moving. It helped me to find my path early intensely focus on it confidently. Those training and learning experiences prepared me to adapt to my role quickly in GFDL.”

Fri, 04/13/18

Mary Morris


Mary Morris

"The CLaSP department was appealing to me because of all the disciplines represented within the department.” 

When asked when she discovered her interest in science, Dr. Mary Morris says, “I don't ever remember not being interested! I've always been a curious person.”

Born and raised in Southeast Pennsylvania, Mary attended Penn State to study meteorology. It was while earning her bachelor’s that she “got hooked on remote sensing,” which led her to branch out and learn more about the subject.

“I had an internship with Professor Jasmeet Judge (Michigan alumna and director of the Center for Remote Sensing at the University of Florida), who pointed me to U-M Climate & Space. But to Professor [Chris] Ruf in particular, as his research is the interdisciplinary blend of things I'm interested in. And the CLaSP department was also appealing to me because of all the disciplines represented within the department.” 

While here at CLaSP, Dr. Morris delved deeper into remote sensing, pulling details about hurricane and tropical storms from data gathered by various instruments. In 2014, she participated in NASA’s HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel). 

The HS3 mission was created to investigate the processes that control hurricane formation and intensification. Two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) outfitted with meteorological instruments were sent to observe hurricanes and storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean basin. One of the UAVs carried an instrument called HIRad (Hurricane Imaging Radiometer), and Mary’s research focused on extracting the surface wind speed and rain observations from HIRad data.

Dr. Morris played a similar role in the recent NASA CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) mission, which launched a constellation of eight hurricane-tracking microsatellites in December of 2016. She developed algorithms that transformed CYGNSS wind speed observations into tropical cyclone data products for use by researchers and meteorologists. Her work on both the HIRad and CYGNSS missions became the common theme for her PhD dissertation this past December. 

Mary is currently working as a postdoctoral scholar for Dr. Shannon Brown at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is developing algorithms for a satellite-based radiometer called the Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer (COWVR) due to launch next year.  

Wed, 06/14/17

Aisha Bowe


Aisha Bowe
Never let others define what is possible for you.

Alumna Aisha Bowe is the co-founder and CEO of STEMBoard, a technology solutions company that works to close the achievement gap by empowering historically underrepresented youth to help build transformational technologies.

Being an underrepresented minority herself, Bowe knows how important it is for young people to have positive mentors. Growing up, she was inspired by her father, who earned his degree in electrical engineering at the age of 40. She also credits the U-M Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engineering Programs, Derrick Scott, for supporting her when she first arrived at the College of Engineering.

At the College, Bowe earned a BSE in aerospace engineering and a Master’s degree in space systems engineering. She also held an internship at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. After completing her Master’s in 2009, she began working at NASA Ames. She continued working there, going from mission engineer to aerospace engineer, until 2015. At that time, she left to focus on STEMBoard full-time.

STEMBoard is making strides. The company collaborates with historically black colleges and universities to host STEM camps. Through the camps, more than 170 students in two countries have received technical instruction designed and executed by STEMBoard experts at no cost.

Becoming the CEO of a successful company after working as a NASA engineer is not a small change, and Bowe credits her education at the College for preparing her to run a company. She especially thanks Professor Thomas Zurbuchen for encouraging her to take a course in entrepreneurship.

“That course prepared me to be a CEO,” Bowe says. “I couldn’t be happier or more grateful for my time at Michigan.”

Bowe’s advice for underrepresented minority students who are interested in a STEM career is to look at the things they don’t have as a positive thing. Some students may feel that they don’t have access to the same resources and connections as their peers, but that can be a good thing because it gives them a unique perspective, and today’s challenges need a variety of perspectives to find answers.

“My mantra is: never let others define what is possible for you,” Bowe adds.

Mon, 04/11/16

Bob Breck


Bob Breck
Donít wait until you graduate to get camera experience.

After visiting a broadcasting station in Chicago when he was thirteen, Alumnus Bob Breck knew he wanted to be a television meteorologist. Indeed, he grew up to be the chief meteorologist at Fox 8 News in New Orleans.

He received his Meteorology & Oceanography degree from U-M in 1969. When he was a student, he enjoyed spending time on the roof of the East Engineering Building.

“I had the fortunate responsibility to go on the roof each day and use the weather station to take measurements. They had a nice camera up there and I would take beautiful sunset pictures,” Breck says.

Breck also enjoyed going to the Big House during Bo Schembechler’s first year as coach, and celebrating birthdays at the Pretzel Bell.

After graduation, Breck searched for a broadcast job and was rejected by 33 television stations. In 1971, a station in Tampa gave him a chance. He spent two years in Tampa and then five years in Dayton, Ohio before he made it to WVUE in New Orleans, where he would spend almost four decades.

“I thought I would only stay in New Orleans for a few years, but the longer I stayed, the more I liked it. I also decided that I didn’t like winter,” Breck says.

Breck covered several hurricanes over the years, including Frederic in 1979, Juan in 1985, Andrew in 1992, Georges in 1998, Lilli in 2002, Ivan in 2004, Katrina and Rita in 2005, Gustav in 2008 and Isaac in 2012.

In 2008, he was named AMS (American Meteorological Society) Broadcaster of the Year. In June 2009, after passing a comprehensive exam on theoretical and operational meteorology, Breck was awarded the AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM) Seal, making him the only chief meteorologist in New Orleans to display the AMS CBM. In April 2014, the National Hurricane Conference honored him with their Distinguished Achievement Award.

For those who aspire to a career in broadcast meteorology, Breck encourages gaining experience early on.

“Get to a television station, don’t wait until you graduate to get camera experience. You cannot go into a place looking like a deer in the headlights,” Breck advises.

Thu, 01/14/16

Jeff Masters


Jeff Masters
I directly credit my classwork here with making my career happen.

Alumnus Jeff Masters co-founded the Weather Underground while working on his PhD in 1995. That same year he became the director of meteorology for Weather Underground, a title he still holds 20 years later.

While earning his PhD from AOSS in the 1990s, Masters wrote much of the software that ingests and formats the raw National Weather Service (NWS) data used on the website, and created most of the imagery on the tropical page. Today, in addition to being the director of meteorology, Masters writes a blog, which is one of the most widely read weather blogs on the Internet.

Masters grew up in suburban Detroit, and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in meteorology from AOSS in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

“I remember we did a field project back in 1981 with Perry Samson where we took acid snow measurements,” Masters says about one of his favorite experiences as a student. “We took my old 1972 [Ford] LTD and we drove all around Detroit scooping up big batches of snow and taking it back to the lab. We occasionally got the car stuck and had to push it out of the snow… we had a good old time doing the first field study of our lives!”

One of Masters’ favorite classes was interactive weather computing with Perry Samson.

“He turned us loose and said write your own software project that has something to do with weather. This was back in 1991 and I found out about this cool thing called the Internet where you could take information and make it available to anybody. So I took my class project, which was my first C program and it was a menu based weather information system. I took the weather data coming in off the satellite dish and put it on MTS (the University mainframe) and made it available to anyone on campus. Eventually we spun that off to the whole world, and eventually that spun off to be my business, so I directly credit my classwork here with making my career happen.”

In 1986, he took a position teaching weather forecasting to undergraduates at SUNY Brockport in New York, then later that year moved to Miami to join the Hurricane Hunters as a flight meteorologist for NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center. You can see him on the 1988 PBS documentary NOVA show titled "Hurricane!", flying into Hurricane Gilbert, the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic at that time. He co-authored several technical papers on wind measurement from aircraft during his four years flying with the Hurricane Hunters.

After nearly getting killed flying into Hurricane Hugo, Masters left the Hurricane Hunters in 1990 to pursue his PhD degree in air pollution meteorology. His 1997 PhD dissertation was titled "Vertical Transport of Carbon Monoxide by Wintertime Mid-latitude Cyclones."

In 2006 Masters was selected for the Alumni Merit Award from AOSS.

Masters continues to be active with the department, offering guest lectures on hurricanes, and managing a Weather Underground undergraduate scholarship program.

In 2015 he strengthened his support for the department by creating an endowment of $200,000, plus $25,000 matching from the University, for the Jeff Masters Student Support Fund. The fund provides need-based support to students and student programs in the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (CLaSP), formerly AOSS.

Sat, 08/29/15

Jack Simmons


Jack Simmons
I chose AOSS because I wanted to simultaneously be exposed to the engineering discipline while also being able to explore its practical applications within natural sciences.

AOSS Alumnus Jack Simmons is a grad student in Columbia University's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

On what he enjoys most about Columbia, Simmons says, “Like Michigan, my program at Columbia exposes me to incredible and passionate researchers and peers who continue to inspire me and inform my studies. In particular, connections to NASA Goddard Institute of Space Sciences and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society provide amazing opportunities as I continue to explore disciplines within climate adaptation while developing technical skills.”

Simmons says he chose the AOSS undergrad program because he felt it offered a variety of paths.

“I chose AOSS because I wanted to simultaneously be exposed to the engineering discipline while also being able to explore its practical applications within natural sciences. I thought that the flexibility of the program as well as the number and diversity of skills required would prepare me well for working in whatever environment I chose in the future.”

Simmons also liked the small class sizes, which had plenty of room for creativity.

“My favorite memory was when Tristen Weber, Luke Luizzo and I were completing a project for Roger De Roo's instrumentation course and we opted to construct our own temperature buoy for the Huron River. The buoy construction and the placement and extraction of the buoys made for one of the most lively projects I had ever experienced, especially since our canoe did not prove to be sufficiently stable for the operation.”

Simmons’ advice for current students is to get involved in the department.

“The small class sizes, access to brilliant professors and researchers as well as personal student groups cannot be easily replicated anywhere else and any effort you make to reach out is almost immediately repaid.”

Simmons is currently assisting an agriculture-modeling project, known as AGMIP, which applies probabilistic climate change scenarios to the world's agriculture system.

Tue, 02/03/15

Cedric Drui


Cedric Drui
The AOSS program in particular allowed me to tailor my education beyond what could be perceived as a narrow field.

Alumnus Cedric Drui is a portfolio manager at a New York-based investment management firm focused on insurance-linked securities. He says the science he learned while earning his Master’s degree with AOSS plays an important part in his work.

“My role is multifaceted, and involves managing our investment portfolio, pricing the underlying risks, raising capital, and overseeing our operations in Bermuda. It's a true 24/7 role in which the science I learned plays a fundamental role, as we focus on the transfer of catastrophe risk such as hurricanes and earthquakes.”

Drui says he chose AOSS for his graduate degree because of the curriculum, which he describes as the “perfect blend of atmospheric and space sciences, which is a true rarity and seemed like the perfect fit for my interests.”

There is not any doubt for Drui that his experiences at the University of Michigan prepared him well for his career.

“The University offers an immense variety of programs and opportunities to learn alongside students from many national origins. The AOSS program in particular allowed me to tailor my education beyond what could be perceived as a narrow field: I was able to link the qualitative study of the atmosphere to rigorous quantitative methods, such as numerical simulation and applied statistics.”

“I rapidly accumulated enough credits to graduate with two Masters of Science in just under two years (one from AOSS and one from the Department of Mathematics). This combination happened to be key for my career as I joined the risk analyst training program of a leading catastrophe modeling company.”

Drui’s favorite memories of AOSS are of the people.

“I will never forget the late Natasha Andronova; I was very fortunate to attend her class on climate modeling and was inspired by her passion for teaching, and love for her research. I will also always remember Ricky Rood, who was my research advisor. Together we worked on understanding the interference caused by steep topography on modeled outputs of precipitation patterns. Ricky was instrumental in guiding me towards the best path for my skill set.”

Drui advises current students to learn as much as possible outside the realm of their comfort zones.

“It’s all about balancing strength. Too often, we want to continue perfecting what we are naturally good at. But it’s a lot more rewarding to find ways to link these strengths to adjacent domains and develop a broader functional knowledge.”

To that effect, Drui believes that continuing education and soft skills are too often neglected.

“While working full-time I studied for both the CFA and FRM programs, and earning these designations allowed me to expand my skills in the world of investment management. Besides academics and professional education, I would also advise science students to work on their communication skills and treat it just like any course. Learning to express yourself effectively and interact harmoniously will make a world of difference in your future success.”

Wed, 12/10/14

Evan Oswald


Evan Oswald
I was in AOSS for undergrad and the faculty in AOSS always impressed me; so naturally I wanted to learn as much as I could from them.

Alumnus Evan Oswald is a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Vermont’s Department of Geography. The overarching theme of his work is the impact climate change is potentially going to have on fields such as air quality, forests, health and recreation.

He describes himself as “an applied climatologist with a strong desire to make a difference at the interface between climate information and the communities that require climate information.”

He is interested in extremely hot temperature episodes, urban climatology, climate’s influence on air pollution and the science of climate data itself.

He earned both his undergraduate degree and PhD from AOSS.

“I was in AOSS for undergrad and the faculty in AOSS always impressed me; so naturally I wanted to learn as much as I could from them,” Oswald explains on why he chose to earn his PhD at AOSS.

He says his experiences with AOSS prepared him for his current work more than he could have expected.

“The applied climate field, and real world problems in general, often involve many different aspects of the physical world (pollution, meteorology, climate change, etc.). I have been particularly thankful for the biogeochemical cycling and air quality courses, the meteorology and boundary layer courses, the climate modeling courses I took, the climate change policy course and the climate data analysis course.”

His advice for current AOSS PhD students is: “Learn as much as you can from every single class you take, and enjoy the free coffee.”

Fri, 08/15/14

Stephanie Praus


Stephanie Praus
I had always been interested in understanding the environment better and learning more about climate change, and AOSS sounded like the perfect way to do that.

Alumna Stephanie Praus is a Director at International Technology and Trade Associates in Washington, D.C. She advises clients on issues related to the nuclear power sector and environmental regulation of the power sector.

“I work primarily with international clients,” Praus says. “Helping them to understand and navigate US policy to serve their business interests or support their decision-making can be really fascinating. It is most exciting when I see my analysis and recommendations put into action. Knowing my work has a real impact can be so rewarding.”

Praus earned her undergraduate degree from AOSS and has a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Maryland.

“I knew I wanted to work in climate and/or environmental policy, and I figured that going to school in an area where there is a focus on policymaking - and a lot of policy jobs - was a good plan,” Praus says of her decision to attend the University of Maryland. “During my master's program, I was able to intern in DC, make contacts, and learn about the types of jobs available.”

In addition to her master’s degree, Praus says her education from AOSS prepared her for her career.

“My favorite class, and the one that probably prepared me the best for my chosen career path, was Prof. Ricky Rood's class on climate change and public policy. Understanding the importance, and potential impact, of communicating scientific information in an effective manner to decision-makers is probably the most important lesson I've learned, and it all started at AOSS.”

Praus originally learned about AOSS from Professor Perry Samson in an Engineering 110 class for freshman.

“I had always been interested in understanding the environment better and learning more about climate change, and AOSS sounded like the perfect way to do that.”

One of her most memorable experiences as a student was at an American Meteorological Society (AMS) conference.

“One of my favorite memories is traveling with a group of other AOSS students to the 2008 AMS Student Conference in New Orleans, where I met an AOSS alum who had actually gone on to pursue public policy. It was the first time that I heard of anyone who had pursued such a path, and it resonated with me and the type of work I wanted to do so much that it led me to look into pursuing a public policy graduate program.”

Her advice for current AOSS students is to be flexible.

“Do not assume that the path you're taking today will lead you exactly where you plan. Unexpected opportunities can lead you to some of the best experiences in your career. And make sure to network! I've found that networking is key to finding the best opportunities out there.”

Fri, 08/01/14

Amanda Graor


Amanda Graor
If I had to choose a favorite individual memory…it would probably be building a weather balloon and chasing it down with the rest of Aaron Ridley's instrumentation class. That was a fun day!

Alumna Amanda Graor is an air quality program manager for the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) in Missouri. She manages the policy and public education work for all MARC air quality-related projects as well as the regional ridesharing program.

“Much of our focus in the Kansas City region is on ozone, but we always look for co-benefits on projects to reduce all types of air pollution from point, area and mobile sources including greenhouse gases, air toxics and other criteria pollutants,” Graor says.

Graor is involved in conversations related to everything from rangeland burning in the Flint Hills of Kansas to reduction of the urban heat island through urban forestry, stormwater management and pavement/concrete options in Kansas City.

“The most exciting thing to me about being an air quality program manager is the opportunity to use the science and technical information in a meaningful way to help effect policy change and educate the public about ways to make their environment safer and healthier for themselves and their neighbors.”

Graor says her AOSS courses primed her for her career by teaching her how to interpret and understand the air pollution models, averaging periods and other scientific information that is the basis for new air quality rules and regulations she uses in her work.

“Two classes in particular in AOSS very much prepared me for my work today - Air Pollution Meteorology with Perry Samson and the Climate Change and Public Policy class with Ricky Rood. By having taken those classes, I was able to jump into a career that many people have to learn as they go with more general undergraduate degrees.”

Graor says she enjoyed the small classes in AOSS as it made the department feel like a family, and her favorite individual memory was a class experiment.

“If I had to choose a favorite individual memory…it would probably be building a weather balloon and chasing it down with the rest of Aaron Ridley's instrumentation class. That was a fun day!”

Her advice to current AOSS students is to be open to many career possibilities.

“My advice for current AOSS students would be to explore all of the possible avenues to use their education in jobs they enjoy. There are many, many places that look for the type of background and education that the AOSS program provides and they're not all in weather forecasting or research. I couldn't be doing my job now without it, and I didn't know much about careers like this prior to college…Also, practice your presentation skills. Take every opportunity you have to present in front of a group. You'll be making presentations to groups large and small for the rest of your career. The more comfortable you can get, the faster you'll improve.”

Mon, 07/14/14

Ilissa Ocko


Ilissa Ocko
If you have a dream, don’t wait for it to fall into your lap.

Alumna Dr. Ilissa Ocko says her passion for climate change started with her classes in AOSS. Today, she is a High Meadows Fellow for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

She says one of her favorite experiences in AOSS was traveling to Greenland with Professor Perry Samson and several students.

“It was so powerful to witness the rapid melting of glaciers first-hand. Deploying instruments, measuring atmospheric conditions, interacting with climate scientists, pitching a tent next to a glacier, observing muskox, surviving in negative 36 degrees on the heart of an ice sheet—are experiences I will never forget.”

In addition to this hands-on practice, Ocko’s time in the classroom also fueled her interest in climate change and developed the skills needed in her career.

“The classes in AOSS prepared me with a solid foundation in atmospheric/oceanic physics and chemistry, of which I would have been lost in graduate school without. I also owe the majority of my passion for climate change to my time in AOSS, which pushed me to pursue higher-level education and a career as a climate scientist.”

Ocko’s main focus at EDF is helping prioritize black carbon mitigation efforts based on the best available science. She explains the importance of these efforts:

“It is so crucial to reduce emissions of both short-lived (e.g. black carbon and methane) AND long-lived (e.g. carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) climate forcers. We need to reduce short-lived species in order to slow the rate of climate change in the near-term (with the co-benefits of improved air quality and health), and reduce long-lived species in order to limit our long-term commitment to climate change. Both actions are essential to stabilizing the climate.”

One of the best parts of Ocko’s job is the dynamic work environment.

“I work with scientists, economists, and lawyers to find practical and long-lasting climate solutions that are scientifically sound, economical, and politically feasible. It’s fascinating to work with so many brilliant, passionate, and good-intentioned people with a completely diverse, yet complementary, set of expertise.”

Ocko encourages proactivity for undergrads considering a career in environmental science.

“If you have a dream, don’t wait for it to fall into your lap. Be as proactive as possible, take the initiative in projects, step up as a leader even if it means quadruple the workload, pursue your ideas independently and also pitch them to others, and try to gain as much exposure to research, programming, and applied science as is sanely possible; it will really pay off in the long run. You don’t need to do all of these things at once—you’d burn yourself out. But, if one of these items pops up every now and then, go for it.”

Thu, 04/03/14

Andrew Humphrey


Andrew Humphrey
The AOSS program at Michigan intrigued me because it was the only one in the country offering an engineering degree in meteorology.

Alumnus Andrew Humphrey, a meteorologist and reporter for WDIV-TV in Detroit, says he made the decision to study meteorology as a teenager.

“When it became obvious that professional football was not going to work out when I was a teenager, I took my parents’ sound advice. They said make sure you choose something that you love. So I thought back to when I was in elementary school. I loved snow days because school was closed, and I loved math and science when I was in class. Then I realized the combination of weather, math and science is meteorology, and that is why I chose it as a major.”

His decision paid off. Humphrey has earned the Emmy award for weather anchoring from the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council and the Community Service Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. He also has the distinction of being an AMS (American Meteorological Society) Certified Broadcast Meteorologist.

Humphrey was born and raised in Maryland and came to U-M because of the unique opportunities available.

“The AOSS program at Michigan intrigued me because it was the only one in the country offering an engineering degree in meteorology.”

Humphrey enjoyed his time at Michigan so much that he cannot narrow it down to one favorite experience. Some of his best memories include: “Graduation day. Being in Michigan Stadium when the football team defeated Ohio State. Watching Desmond Howard play. Our basketball team becoming NCAA champions under Coach Fisher during my freshman year. Seeing the Fab Five on campus and watching them play during their freshman year.”

His advice to AOSS students is to attend graduate school.

“Earn an advanced degree because it extends and deepens your knowledge and makes you more attractive to future employers.”

Humphrey’s favorite part about working for WDIV is “helping families get through their day and keep their loved ones safe with my weather reports and sharing the world of meteorology with students.”

Mon, 02/03/14

Gerceida Jones


Gerceida Jones
You must prove yourself by being exceptional and don’t let anyone intimidate you.

Alumna Dr. Gerceida Jones is the first African-American in the country to earn a degree in Physical Oceanography.

She was planning to move to Florida to study oceanography when a chance encounter led her to U-M.

It was spring break and she was traveling from Detroit to St. Louis by train when she met a young woman who told her U-M offered an oceanography degree.

“After extensive research and interviewing university personnel, I decided that Physical Oceanography would be an exciting major at Michigan given all of the resources available,” Jones says.

She is the first African-American to graduate from U-M with an oceanography degree. Her advice for AOSS students is: “make sure you are very clear on the degree requirements, stay focused, manage your time and have a strategy for success.”

One of the best experiences Jones had with AOSS was an oceanographic trip taken with Dr. Guy Meadows aboard the research vessel, the Laurentian.

“We were bottom dredging, collecting water samples, and measuring the speed of the current in the Huron River. I made corn chowder for the entire team. I remember thinking how great an opportunity this was even though it was bone chilling cold, dank and wet. The laughter, camaraderie and learning experience were all well worth the trip.”

Today, Jones teaches astronomy at New York University. She enjoys teaching to freshman because they bring a lot of enthusiasm into the class.

“They learn basic concepts, discuss current events, and participate in actual observations with solar and night telescopes. Their reactions to seeing Saturn, the moon or a particular star for the first time is priceless.”

As a woman with a successful STEM career, Jones has great advice for women in engineering.

“Find a mentor who will guide you to accomplish your goals. Networking with other students, professors, and national organizations, such as SWE [Society of Women Engineers] can be a tremendous help to your career in strengthening your resume. Please don’t forget to balance your professional life with family and friends. You must find a way to ‘sparkle’ in leadership positions. Lastly, discover your passion by taking different classes; it’s about quality not quantity. Women in STEM fields are considered ‘tokens.’ You must prove yourself by being exceptional and don’t let anyone intimidate you.”

Wed, 12/04/13

Dan Stillman


Dan Stillman
There are many different avenues for someone who has an AOSS background, ranging from highly technical, to research and teaching and to the media and communications side.

When there’s a storm brewing in D.C., AOSS Alumnus Dan Stillman is watching. He is a forecaster and editor for The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.

“What I love most is being able to interpret the weather models and then crafting and communicating the weather forecast in a way that is useful and engaging for the reader,” Stillman says.

Stillman became interested in meteorology from watching snow reports as a child.

“It was always fun to follow incoming snow storms to predict if we'd get out of school or at least have a delay. My interest in meteorology and weather forecasting took off from there.”

Stillman’s experience both inside and outside of the classroom prepared him for his career.

“It was really the combination of AOSS and other classes together with my four years of writing and editing for The Michigan Daily -- I was a sports writer, of all things -- that helped develop both my science and technical skills, but just as important my ability to communicate science and weather to a public audience.”

Besides working for The Washington Post, Stillman is also a marketing and communications manager for PlanetiQ, a company working to launch a network of commercial weather satellites.

Stillman’s advice to AOSS students is to keep an open mind in regard to where your career might take you.

“There are many different avenues for someone who has an AOSS background, ranging from highly technical, to research and teaching, and to the media and communications side. Also, be proud of the background and knowledge you're developing. Everywhere I go people are intrigued that I am a meteorologist.”

Stillman says most people are really interested in weather, the atmosphere and nature, and he enjoys having a career that allows him to provide insights in those areas.

“Most people understand that the atmosphere is a complicated place and forecasters aren't always going to get it right. But they also appreciate knowing when and why we [the Capital Weather Gang] may be more or less confident about a particular forecast, and what all the possible forecast scenarios are. Because we're transparent in this way with our readers, we've become a go-to source for weather information across the D.C. area, especially when there is potential for a significant storm.”

Tue, 10/29/13

Austin Gibbons


Austin Gibbons
I love being able to oversee a group of people to success, or even failure. The bottom line is it is your success or failure.

AOSS Alumnus Second Lieutenant Austin Gibbons serves the U.S. Air Force at an Operational Weather Squadron in Hawaii.

Joining the Air Force had been in the back of his mind since he saw a brochure in the Space Research Building, but it wasn’t until he tried a career in television that he decided a military career was the better choice for him.

“Weather is actually a critical career field in the Air Force, as we are constantly searching for more meteorologists, both enlisted and officer,” Gibbons says.

His advice to AOSS students considering a military career is to form strong leadership skills.

“Your meteorology is critical to your background knowledge and operational execution, but your leadership abilities are paramount to accomplishing the mission.”

Being able to guide and motivate people is a key skill for Gibbons as he executes weather missions across the Pacific Ocean.

While he did not enjoy them at the time, Gibbons says working on group projects as a student helped him prepare for leading others in his career.

“No matter the topic, the path is the same for a group project. Ensure everyone pulls their weight, split the work up or work together, and the parts will yield a solid sum.”

As to the things he did enjoy, launching a weather balloon in Professor Aaron Ridley’s instrumentation class was one of Gibbons’ favorite experiences in AOSS.

“I worked on the launch forecast and where we expected the balloon to land after launch. It was a perfectly clear day and excellent launch. The balloon went all the way up to 105K feet. Much to the disbelief of everyone with us (and still to this day) I saw it pop with the naked eye.”

He also enjoyed going tornado chasing in 2006.

“We were out there for two weeks and 5,500 miles and countless storms, and despite not seeing a tornado, it was an incredible experience.”

Working for an operational weather squadron is busy and challenging, but most of all Gibbons says it is an honor.

“I love being able to oversee a group of people to success, or even failure. The bottom line is it is your success or failure. You don't get that with a lot of jobs.”

Mon, 10/07/13

Beth McBride


Beth McBride
We were happy to give students an opportunity to learn about science and engineering in a new way.

Alumna Beth McBride traveled to India this summer to host a science and engineering summer camp for secondary students with the U-M Society of Women Engineers.

“We were happy to give students an opportunity to learn about science and engineering in a new way,” McBride says.

The camp engaged students in hands-on activities such as making bottle rockets, building wind turbines out of bottles and creating towers out of spaghetti, spring and tape. The teachers said the students who did their best work on these projects were not at the top of the class academically and this type of hands-on learning gave them new confidence.

McBride says working with the students was the best part of the trip.

“They were so excited to be doing these hands-on engineering activities and so engaged in the activities.”

McBride also enjoyed speaking with educators at the school to understand some of the differences between education systems in India and the United States. This was especially interesting to McBride as she is pursuing a PhD in Science and Engineering Education at UC Berkeley in the fall.

Tue, 07/09/13

Dara Fisher


Dara Fisher
Because AOSS is such a small department, I think that it made me extremely comfortable in developing relationships with faculty members.

Alumna Dara Fisher communicates the student culture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) as a graduate research assistant for the MIT-SUTD Collaboration.

“I have absolutely loved my time in graduate school thus far and I became especially interested in how U.S. universities are expanding globally,” she says.

SUTD is a new, technically oriented university established in collaboration with MIT. Last summer Fisher coordinated a leadership program for 18 MIT students and 60 SUTD freshmen in Singapore. Her program helped the Singaporean students develop clubs and extracurricular activities at the new university. At the end of the summer they held a showcase for the 20 student clubs, which she says was like a mini Festifall.

Fisher says the most rewarding part of her experience was returning to Singapore this past February and meeting with several of her summer students. “The students were so excited to catch up with me and clearly thrilled to see me again…and the fact that they trusted me as a friend and mentor made me so proud of the relationships I had built at the new university.”

This summer Fisher will be teaching a course at MIT for 28 SUTD sophomore students on exchange at MIT, where she will see some of her summer students again. Then she is headed to Harvard University to pursue a Doctor of Education degree.

“Harvard's EdD program in higher education ended up being a really good fit for me to continue my studies…I will receive mentorship from some amazing scholars in the field while continuing to gain access to the activities of all of the universities in the greater Boston area.”

She says one of the invaluable skills she uses as a graduate student is developing relationships with faculty, and her experience at AOSS prepared her for that.

“Because AOSS is such a small department, I think that it made me extremely comfortable in developing relationships with faculty members and functioning well in small, seminar-style graduate classes.”

She advises undergraduate engineering students to fit in as many humanities and social science electives as possible. She says her classes in French, public policy and history gave her stronger writing and communication abilities and increased her global awareness.

“Michigan is a place with unlimited academic opportunities, just try to take advantage of this while you can!”

Wed, 06/12/13

Jessie Grosso


Jessie Grosso
It made perfect sense to me to use my AOSS background to help better predict wind speeds and energy production.

Alumna Jessie Grosso is the senior scientist at a wind energy company in Ohio. “Working at a small company has allowed me to gain experience ‚Ä®in many more areas than I ever thought I would,” Grosso says.

She met her company, One Energy, at the College’s fall career fair in 2011. “It made perfect sense to me to use my AOSS background to help better predict wind speeds and energy production,” Grosso says on her career choice.

She says one of the great things about her job is that no two days are the same. One day she may stay in the office working with wind resource assessments and the next day she is at a construction site watching a turbine rotor get hoisted 280 feet in the air.

“One Energy has exposed me to everything from the sales side of business to‚Ä® engineering and construction.”

‚Ä®Grosso earned her B.S.E. in Earth Systems Science and Engineering in May 2010 and earned a Master’s in Atmospheric Science in August 2011. She says her AOSS education prepared her perfectly for her career.

“My background has allowed me to move towards my ultimate goal of starting to bridge the gap between the wind research and the wind industry. I have been‚Ä®able to use my knowledge of atmospheric dynamics, statistics and meteorology to create new procedures and continuously improve our wind resource assessments.”‚Ä®

She encourages students to study computer programming, statistics and economics as those are the courses and skills she has found to be the most useful.

Her favorite experience from AOSS was storm chasing from Texas to South Dakota through the SCOUT (Severe Convective Outflow in Thunderstorms) project with Texas Tech University.

“It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember for the rest of my‚Ä® life.”

Mon, 05/20/13

Yuei-An Liou


Yuei-An Liou
Don’t feel shy to speak out.

Alumnus Dr. Yuei-An Liou is a professor at the National Central University in Taiwan and is President of the Taiwan Group on Earth Observations. Liou is recognized internationally for his work in leading remote sensing research.‚Ä®

Liou says his favorite memory from AOSS is the kindness of the community. “The staff members are always there to provide administrative assistance. The graduate students frequently get together not only for course learning, but also for happy hours.”

Liou’s advice to international students is “Don’t feel shy to speak out if assistance is needed… You will essentially be the one who benefits the most if you are willing to open your mind.”

Liou earned his Masters and PhD in the Geoscience and Remote Sensing program under the guidance of Professors Tony England and Bill Kuhn.

Liou says he found Professor Bill Kuhn’s Radiative Transfer Theory course and Professor Sushil Atreya’s thermodynamics course to be some of the most beneficial for his academic career.

Liou earned the Distinguished Professor Award from National Central University in 2010. In 2008, he earned the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Michigan Alumni Association in Taiwan.

Mon, 02/04/13

Gavin Chensue

Officer, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

Gavin Chensue
I think I have the most exciting job in the world.

Alumnus Gavin Chensue is an officer in the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, which operates research vessels and acts as a liaison between physical research and station laboratories. Over the next two years he will be working from San Diego up to the Arctic Circle conducting ocean bottom research in a hydrographic survey vessel.

He says he was inspired to join NOAA after Professor Tony England said, “Follow the interesting problem of the day.” For Chensue, the most interesting problem is the earth's resources, the ocean and the atmospheric environment.

He says studying at AOSS prepared him for his career because it gave him “a very complete picture about the environment in both practical and theoretical aspects which, while my job is very practical in nature, allows me to connect what I see every day with the physics behind.”

While time on the vessel is interesting, Chensue’s favorite experience at AOSS was on land.

“I think the best singular experience I had was working on VORTEX II with Professor Samson and the Texas Tech tornado research team. We spent 46 days in 2010, saw 6 tornados and put 15,000 miles on a university van.”

Chensue is currently on the NOAA Ship Fairweather, which you can learn more about here.

Wed, 09/26/12

Harvey Elliott

Entrepreneurial Lead, Electric Field Solutions

Doctoral Student, U-M

Harvey Elliott
The important lesson from both MEng and I-Corps is to hold the bar high and push yourself and others. You’ll be amazed with the results.

Doctoral student Harvey Elliott knew the electrostatic shock warning system he developed with Professor Nilton Renno was a good idea, but he didn’t have answers for the business model.

To find answers, he participated in the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps, an eight-week program designed to foster entrepreneurship.

“After day three we knew we had to change something because we were getting negative feedback,” Elliott says.

They changed the design from a hand-held wand to a bench-top unit. Now the company, Electric Field Solutions, plans to have a unit ready to sell within 3 months. Elliott says the MEng program with Darren McKague led him to an interest in business, and I-Corps further reinforced his confidence.

“I am definitely more interested in starting my own company,” Elliott says.

One of his favorite MEng experiences was participating in a symposium with Professor Thomas Zurbuchen. He was able to meet venture capitalists and see MEng graduates 5 years down the road, which helped him picture where he could go in a few years.

Elliott will give a presentation on his experience with I-Corps at the annual American Geological Union fall meeting. Elliott says it is crucial for other graduate students learn about this opportunity.

“The important lesson from both MEng and I-Corps is to hold the bar high and push yourself and others. You’ll be amazed with the results,” Elliott says.

Tue, 09/11/12

Emily Potter

Systems Engineer, Spider9 Inc.

ME in Space Systems Engineering, U-M

Emily Potter
MEng is the reason I have my career right now.

Grabbing lunch between classes often means waiting in line for fast food or munching on a granola bar. AOSS MEng alumna Emily Potter is creating a third option: Yo Mama Packed It.

Yo Mama Packed It will use bicycles to deliver wholesome, budget-friendly meals to campus locations. Students can order online and expect their meal within 30 minutes.

The business plan won the top $2,500 prize in the Michigan Business Model Competition last December, as well as the Organizer’s Award at the Ross School of Business Entrepreneur & Venture Club Business Model Competition.

Potter credits her business skills to Professor Thomas Zurbuchen, associate dean for entrepreneurship.

“He really pushed [us] to understand the in-depth of what goes into forming a business.”

Potter says MEng prepared her for working with fellow Yo Mama Packed It team members, public health students Jessica Lai and Ta-Wei Lin.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an engineering project or a public health project, you still need the same budgeting and team skills.”

Potter says her favorite MEng experience was the research. Her team designed a communication system for disaster relief that launched high altitude balloons. To test the system, they launched a balloon and chased after it.

“Driving down the road, peering out the window on the highway trying to chase after that balloon was pretty exhilarating.”

Outside of Yo Mama Packed It, Potter is a systems engineer with startup Spider9, Inc. Potter says working in a startup can be stressful and fast paced, but MEng prepared her for that. “MEng is the reason I have my career right now.”

Wed, 08/15/12

Kevin Reed

Ph.D. Atmospheric Science

B.S. Physics (U-M 2006)

AGU Congressional Science Fellow

Kevin Reed
AOSS Alumnus Kevin Reed is the first University of Michigan student to be selected for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Congressional Science Fellowship.

Reed says his year-long fellowship, located in Washington, D.C., is “completely open ended. There, I won't be doing research at all. I'll be a typical staffer with science as my specialty.

Although there are no guarantees, Reed says he hopes to get into an office that’s interested in climate change.

Reed received his B.S. in physics from the Univeristy of Michigan. He says he was attracted to AOSS for graduate school because of his “interest in studying atmospheric science. I wanted something policy relevant.”He says one of the benefits of being an AOSS student was the ability to travel often. “It broadened my view of the field,” Reed says.

During his travels, Reed was happy to come from a school everyone knew.“It’s huge, it’s well-known around the world. Even in Peru – when I traveled there – people knew about the University of Michigan.”When he’s not studying, Reed follows University of Michigan sports.“I like football. I'm an avid Michigan sports fanatic. I host a tailgate before every football game in the fall.When he completes his fellowship, Reed says he plans to return to research. To learn more about American Geophysical Union Congressional Science Fellowship, please visit

Tue, 04/10/12

Jessica Parker


Meteorologist with the Weather Underground in San Francisco

Jessica Parker
“The programs in the department were well rounded and allowed students to study both the science and engineering sides of Earth Sciences with world renowned faculty,” she says. “The program also offered just enough flexibility and hands-on experience to really make studies unique to each student. “I love U-M because it’s a diverse school with amazing students, faculty, and research opportunities.”

When Jessica Parker, a meteorologist with the Weather Underground in San Francisco, set her sights on attending the University of Michigan, it was the AOSS department that attracted her to the maize and blue. “The programs in the department were well rounded and allowed students to study both the science and engineering sides of Earth Sciences with world renowned faculty,” she says. “The program also offered just enough flexibility and hands-on experience to really make studies unique to each student. “I love U-M because it’s a diverse school with amazing students, faculty, and research opportunities.” Parker completed her Earth Systems Science and Engineering studies at U-M, concentrating on Meteorology/Atmospheric Science, and “dabbling” in Climate Change Studies.

Some of her favorite adventures as a Wolverine included learning about instrumentation and data sampling in Greenland with Professor Perry Samson, and learning about smokestack sampling in Pensacola, Florida, with the late Professor Gerald Keeler.

After U-M, Parker turned down an opportunity to be a tornado chaser on reality TV, and headed to California where she joined the Weather Underground in San Francisco. “I wanted to join the Weather Underground team of meteorologists because the company allows ‘mets’ to indulge in the many facets of meteorology, similar to the AOSS dept. – programming, research, outreach, broadcast, and more – and encourages continued education conferences and workshops,” she says. “While I enjoy working with new data sets and programming, forecasting storms, and making recent storm assessments, I have the most fun participating in various outreach projects, including weather talks with students, radio and broadcast about weather and travel, and national and international conferences and events.”

In her leisure time, Parker enjoys exploring the many districts of San Francisco and the cities of the Bay Area. “There’s always some new and exciting restaurant, shop, or event.” For a quick escape from the city, she hikes in the Marin Headlands or the nearby National Parks. Her newest hobby is learning how to snowboard and she is looking forward to visiting Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada this winter. She also enjoys kickboxing and traveling. “My favorite places to visit in the states include New York, Miami, and back home to Chicago to visit family – and my favorite international city is London.”

Fri, 03/09/12

Martin G. Mlynczak

Alumni (PhD ’89)

Senior Research, Climate Science Branch, NASA Langley Research Center

Martin G. Mlynczak
“We need to get measurements of energy as a function of wavelength -- to look at the entire amount of infrared and solar radiation -- to get into measuring spectra radiation very accurately in order to study climate and climate change in the long range.”

In 2004 AOSS honored alumni Martin G. Mlynczak with the College of Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award for his many contributions to the field of atmospheric science. Dr. Mlynczak’s research interests include calculation, modeling and observation of atmospheric thermodynamics, energy budgets and structure from satellite, aircraft, balloon and ground-based instruments. Much of his research to develop and mature instruments used to measure infrared and solar radiation in the atmosphere has put him in the debate over climate warming.

Dr. Mlynczak is an Affiliate Scientist at the High Altitude Observatory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and a member of the Observatory's Scientific Advisory Committee.

Wed, 09/15/10

Jeffrey Thayer

Alumni (MS ’86 PhD ’90)

Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

Jeffrey Thayer

Since receiving the 2005 College of Engineering AOSS Alumni Society Merit Award, Jeffrey Thayer has continued his extensive research in remote sensing of the atmosphere and ionosphere using lidar and radar techniques; optical systems and design; atmospheric and space physics; geophysical fluid dynamics, electrodynamics, and plasma physics. He was the Chair of the NSF Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR) Program Science Steering Committee, 2007-2009 and co-chair of the Greenland Space Science Symposium, which resulted in a web site comprised of science resources for teachers K-12. (

PHOTO:Jeffrey Thayer Webcast

View interview with Professor Thayer:

“How do changes in Earth's lower atmosphere affect us?”

Wed, 09/15/10