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


  • Alumni

    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
    Dont 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 
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
 engineering and construction.”

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
able to use my knowledge of atmospheric dynamics, statistics and meteorology to create new procedures and continuously improve our wind resource assessments.”

    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

    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.

    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

  • Students

    Ryan Dewey


    Ryan Dewey

    “The aurora was beautifully breathtaking, especially since it connected everything I've learned and researched in the field to something I could see myself.” 

    Ryan Dewey hails from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains - Colorado Springs, to be specific. He was born and raised in the Centennial State, and has spent most of his life there. He attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he did a double major in Astronomy and Physics. Before coming to Michigan, the only other time Ryan had “been more than a stone's throw from mountains was when I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden for six months.”

    Ryan’s interest in science was more of a gradual arc of discovery rather than a “eureka” moment. “I never had a defining moment when I realized I loved science (especially space). In primary school, I always liked the math and science classes and assignments, even so far as to join the Math Counts and Science Olympiad teams in middle/high school.”


    But that began to change when he took several courses in middle school taught by a former NASA employee. The classes focused on aerospace and astronautics, with a bit of astronomy thrown in for good measure. This was a turning point for Ryan. “I loved the classes so much that in high school I made an effort to take as many physics classes as I could.” 

    He also credits a slightly different environment for further helping to cement his interest. After his senior year in high school, he worked at a local Boy Scout summer camp. “I was put in charge of teaching the astronomy merit badge. I had so much fun teaching scouts the basics of our solar system (and stargazing with the scouts!) that I knew I wanted to major in astronomy & physics at CU.”

    As an undergrad, he was fortunate to work alongside Professor Daniel Baker in CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) on his Mercury/MESSENGER research. While there, he was introduced to two other members of the MESSENGER science team - CLaSP Professors Jim Slavin and Jim Raines. After some discussion, Ryan found himself drawn to the CLaSP department and the chance to work with the “strong concentration of space physics professors.” And that was that. 

    Ryan describes his own research as “a combination of space physics, magnetospheric physics, and comparative planetology.” When asked to elaborate, he says, “I always loved the stars, but they seem too disconnected to research - I wanted something close, something I could look at myself. On the other hand, researching the Earth seemed too close. With the Earth feeling too claustrophobic and stars too distant, the compromise was studying other planets in the solar system, particularly their magnetic fields.” As Ryan recently advanced to Ph.D candidacy status, it would seem he’s found his research sweet spot.

    Ryan is also enthusiastic cook, and said he was also drawn to the food culture of Ann Arbor when weighing his decision to come to Ann Arbor. “I'm still developing my culinary skills & taste, but I'm a big fan of cooking (and eating). I'm helping with a community garden this year, and I'm excited for the first tomatoes & eggplants.”

    When asked what his favorite CLaSP experience has been so far, he recalls a conference he attended last January in Rovaniemi, Finland. “My advisors, a senior grad student, and a postdoc from my lab spent a week in the bitter cold north of Finland. One night in the middle of the conference, the organizers took all attendees to a nearby reindeer farm, where we got to meet some reindeer, eat & drink by a fire, and take reindeer-pulled sleigh rides. That night the magnetosphere did not disappoint -- the sky danced the aurora, while we below froze in the -40 C (= -40 F) weather!”

    “The aurora was beautifully breathtaking, especially since it connected everything I've learned and researched in the field to something I could see myself.” 

    Tue, 09/19/17

    Anthony Torres


    Anthony Torres
    It's incredible how much interaction and personal attention we have from our professors while at a large, top-notch university like Michigan.

    Many people enjoy watching loud thunderstorms on hot summer nights, but Undergraduate Student Anthony Torres isn’t just watching for fun. He’s studying thunderstorms in the Great Plains this summer as part of the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign.

    Torres is part of a group that collects surface-based observations of thunderstorm systems in an effort to improve forecasts of these sometimes damaging storms.

    Torres became involved with the campaign after spending last summer as a protégé with SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Science) at UCAR. The director of the program asked the protégés if any of them would be interested in participating in the field campaign in 2015, and Torres immediately expressed his interest.

    Torres advises fellow students to seek opportunities in undergraduate research.

    “As an undergrad, no one expects you to know everything at first. However, the experience you gain from undergraduate research is invaluable. It's the perfect opportunity to learn how to answer questions that have never been answered before, travel, network, and make professional connections that last a lifetime. If you're unsure about your career, undergraduate research is a great way to get your feet wet and learn more about your field.”

    While having research opportunities is certainly a benefit of being an AOSS student, Torres says his favorite thing about AOSS is the “tight-knit community.”

    “It's incredible how much interaction and personal attention we have from our professors while at a large, top-notch university like Michigan,” he says.

    When asked what drew Torres to the AOSS program, he said, “I have had a lifelong love and fascination with the weather, and being surrounded by people with the same passion is an amazing experience.”

    Fri, 06/05/15

    Diana Thatcher


    Diana Thatcher
    Staying with AOSS was a huge benefit for me. Instead of taking the usual courses, I was able to focus on classes directly related to my research.

    Doctoral Student Diana Thatcher is spending February through August 2015 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as a Visiting Graduate Student Fellow.

    “The Graduate Student Visitor Program is a great chance to experience working outside of AOSS,” Thatcher says. “This 6-month visit allows me to meet a variety of scientists from different fields and collaborate effectively... There is such a wealth of knowledge here that I only have to walk down the hall to find expert advice on my research. NCAR is also the perfect place for anybody who enjoys spending time outdoors. Although I certainly miss Michigan, it is worth it for all of the hiking and skiing. I highly recommend that all PhD students spend some time working at another institution and collaborating with other researchers.”

    Thatcher earned her undergraduate degree at AOSS, but she says coming here for her PhD was a surprise.

    “I had already begun an undergraduate research project with my advisor, Dr. Christiane Jablonowski, and decided to continue this project as a PhD. Staying with AOSS was a huge benefit for me. Instead of taking the usual courses, I was able to focus on classes directly related to my research, such as numerical methods classes.”

    When asked about her favorite experiences at AOSS, Thatcher said, “All of the social activities, from intramural sports to holiday celebrations, keep graduate school interesting. I also enjoy the chance to present my research without attending conferences. AOSS Flash Talks, MGU, EGS, and other U-M symposiums throughout the year are great opportunities to present my research and receive feedback before traveling to major conferences.”

    Thatcher says that finding the right advisor is the most important factor to consider when choosing a PhD program.

    “A good advisor will be able to suggest research projects that are interesting for their students and provide mentoring throughout the PhD program,” Thatcher says.

    Daher says her favorite part about AOSS is the people.

    “Other important considerations are the program’s selection of relevant classes and opportunities to use university resources, such as specialty lab equipment or high-performance computers,” Thatcher adds. “Choosing a PhD program is a very personal decision, so don’t be afraid to go against conventional wisdom. It’s ok to let outside factors, such as typical weather, urban vs. rural location, or the proximity to family members, play a role in choosing a PhD program. Generally, it is recommended that PhD students go to a different institution than their undergraduate institution, but staying at U-M was the best choice for me.”

    Fri, 04/03/15

    Houraa Daher


    Houraa Daher
    The department is like a big family and the faculty and staff here truly care about each student’s progress and well-being.

    AOSS Undergraduate Student Houraa Daher traveled with Habitat for Humanity to New Orleans during spring break 2014.

    “It was so amazing to be able to connect with the city of New Orleans and its residents,” Daher says. “Often they would pass by the work site just to stop and thank us. It's tough to make a difference in the lives of others in such a short time period, but they still let us know how grateful they were for us being there.”

    Daher’s trip to New Orleans was a Stamps Scholars Alternative Spring Break. Stamp Scholars are students who have received the merit scholarship from Penny and Roe Stamps.

    “Not only do we represent all the colleges at the University of Michigan, but we all have different dreams and aspirations for ourselves,” Daher says of the Stamps Scholars. “Without this scholarship, I would not be a student here at the University of Michigan, which has always been a life long dream for me.”

    One of the biggest challenges from the trip to New Orleans was seeing the city continue to struggle with the damage from Hurricane Katrina.

    “We heard many stories from residents who were still without their homes and who had lost family members. It was a very eye opening experience that really made us appreciate what we had back home.”

    Daher decided to pursue an undergraduate degree with AOSS as a path towards a career in marine biology.

    “I knew about the AOSS department because I had worked for Professor Andronova my freshman year and really enjoyed the work I did with climate models and climate change. Working for her encouraged me to get my undergraduate degree in AOSS.”

    Daher says her favorite part about AOSS is the people.

    “I've gotten to meet some of the greatest faculty members like Professor Moldwin and some of the most helpful and funniest classmates…I've also gotten to take classes in subject areas that I'm very passionate about, like the oceans.”

    She wants other students who are considering coming to AOSS to know that she thinks it is one of the most rewarding programs at U-M.

    “I've enjoyed every moment in it and I know my classmates have as well. The department is like a big family and the faculty and staff here truly care about each student’s progress and well-being.”

    Thu, 04/24/14

    Meng Jin

    Graduate Student

    Meng Jin
    It is a very unique experience to study in the CSEM and AOSS. The science and engineering are combined perfectly here.

    With Sun, Moon, Earth, and Venus in his Chinese name, doctoral student Meng Jin says he was born to work in space science.

    Jin is a student in the Center for Space Environment Modeling (CSEM) within AOSS. He researches coronal mass ejections (CMEs), also known as solar storms.

    “With a billion tons of mass ejected at over a million kilometers per hour, a fast CME possesses sufficient energy to significantly affect the near-Earth space environment and therefore the daily life of human beings”, he explains. “We are building a state-of-art numerical model to simulate the CME from the Sun to the Earth, which will be a milestone for the space weather forecast capability.”

    Jin’s research has been recognized; the College selected him as a 2014 recipient of The Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. This prize is intended to highlight the innovation and creativity demonstrated by the College’s students and reward outstanding research achievements.

    Jin’s advice for other students is to prepare for interdisciplinary opportunities.

    “Keep learning new stuff to broaden your horizons by actively participating in different classes every semester,” Jin says. “Almost all the research fields are interdisciplinary. The more you learned in school, the better chance to be successful in the future.”

    Jin enjoys being part of the CSEM and AOSS community because of the wide variety of experts available.

    “It is a very unique experience to study in the CSEM and AOSS. The science and engineering are combined perfectly here. We have physicists, computer scientists and engineers. Whenever you meet a problem, you can find some experts to consult. It not only makes your research more efficient, but also pushes you to learn some new stuff every day.”

    As a Rackham Predoctoral Fellow, Jin is in the last stage of the PhD study.

    “To get the PhD degree is only the first step, there are many challenging and existing problems to be solved in the future. I am ready for it.”

    Tue, 02/18/14

    Nathan Hamet

    Graduate Student

    Nathan Hamet
    I love getting people involved in MBuRST because I want to give the opportunities that were given to me.

    Graduate student Nathan Hamet was searching for learning opportunities beyond sitting behind a computer when he discovered MBuRST (Michigan Balloon Recovery & Satellite Testbed), a student project team in the U-M Student Space Systems Fabrication Lab (S3FL).

    MBuRST was a perfect fit for Hamet, who had been looking for a hands-on project that was weather-related. Today, Hamet is an MBuRST project manager.

    One of the MBuRST projects is developing high-altitude disaster aid balloons, which can take Wi-Fi routers over disaster-affected areas to connect with smart-phones on the ground. The idea is that there will be an application on the phone that can ping the phone’s location via the Wi-Fi connection, allowing relief workers to find out where people are trapped.

    “The disaster aid project is awesome because it will give me the opportunity to do the two things I love most, study weather and build near space instrumentation,” Hamet says.

    Hamet’s advice to students interested in MBuRST is to not be afraid to learn something out of their comfort zone.

    “I deal with electrical engineering a lot but this gives me the opportunity to create systems that deal with my direct field of study such as the disaster relief project and the study of extreme weather.”

    Hamet adds that it is important to understand the difference between talent and skill.

    “Talent is something that comes naturally and skill is something that is constantly being developed. Skilled engineers who are always working on making themselves better tend to be the most successful because of the passion and motivation that ensues.”

    Hamet’s favorite part of being an AOSS student is interacting with the faculty and staff.

    “We are a much smaller department than others within the College and this makes us more of a family. I have the easiest time getting in touch with any member of AOSS and the faculty really care about the students, which is something you often don't see in such a great research institution.”

    Hamet’s final piece of advice to incoming students is to get involved in research projects.

    “This develops skills that are not always covered in class. I love getting people involved in MBuRST because I want to give the opportunities that were given to me. It changed my life and I wouldn't be pursuing my master's if I didn't pursue a research position three years ago.”

    Thu, 01/09/14

    Justin Tsu

    Undergraduate Student

    Justin Tsu
    AOSS has turned my college experience into what I believe to be the true value of college: networking, interacting, and socializing with other people.

    Undergraduate student Justin Tsu is the co-president of the U-M chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He says he enjoys leading AMS because he gets to share what he has learned from his experiences.

    “I get to see students whose shoes I was in two years ago grow to become somebody better than I am presently.”

    One of the most exciting things he has done with AMS was give a 5th and 7th grade robotics group a tour of the Space Research Building.

    “There is no bigger thrill than being able to benefit the lives of young children by showing them what meteorology and related sciences are about.”

    To Tsu, understanding meteorology and related sciences means learning about the effect a ground-induced current has on a power grid, or the effect ocean depth has on hurricane power. He says this study of natural phenomena goes beyond traditional engineering skills and into the sciences, which can be helpful for any career.

    “Ultimately, from learning the scientific side of engineering, we also get to practice communicating our ideas effectively. Communication and professionalism are magnificent tools that many engineers lack.  They are arguably the most difficult skills to perfect, but a career at AOSS aids in developing them for the future.”

    Tsu enjoys being an AOSS student not only because of the educational opportunities, but also because of the community.

    “My favorite experience that I have had in AOSS is meeting the people that I have come to rely on for everything from academic support to comradeship…AOSS has turned my college experience into what I believe to be the true value of college: networking, interacting, and socializing with other people.”

    Wed, 12/18/13

    Mary Morris

    Doctoral student

    Mary Morris
    AOSS was appealing to me because of all the disciplines represented in the department.

    Doctoral student Mary Morris participated in the NASA Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) airborne field campaign. “HS3 is the most exciting field campaign that I have ever been a part of,” Morris says.

    The campaign investigates hurricane processes by flying two Global Hawk drone airplanes instrumented with remote sensing equipment over and around hurricanes.

    Morris participated in the project to learn more about hurricane formation and airborne campaigns. She says she enjoyed “the opportunity to meet members of the HIRAD (Hurricane Imaging Radiometer) team and listen in on the weather discussions that help the mission scientists plan flights.”

    Morris earned her bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Penn State, where she says she got “hooked on remote sensing.” She came to the AOSS doctoral program to learn more about earth science remote sensing.

    “AOSS was appealing to me because of all the disciplines represented in the department,” Morris says.

    She encourages undergraduate students to try out different fields of research to find the best fit for them.

    “If I had limited my internship search to weather related research, I might not have ended up where I am today! Getting some research experience will also help you figure out if graduate school is the right option for you.”

    Fri, 09/13/13

    Samantha Tushaus

    Doctoral student

    Samantha Tushaus
    NCAR is a great place for a grad student to learn about today's leading research.

    Doctoral student Samantha Tushaus received the National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Graduate Student Visitor Award, which gave her the opportunity to spend four months working with NCAR scientists in Colorado.

    “NCAR is a great place for a grad student to learn about today's leading research,” Tushaus says.

    Working with NCAR has not only helped Tushaus with research, it has also provided connections in the community. Tushaus has joined the Earth Science Women’s Network and Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment program.

    “I'm very lucky to be part of those programs and the earth science community.”

    Tushaus came to AOSS to pursue a PhD in atmospheric science after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Iowa State University. Her advice to potential PhD students: ask the AOSS professors about your research interests before you apply. This will help you find out if you and a professor have interests that work well together.

    “It helps you write application essays and ensures that you'll be happy at the graduate school of your choice.”

    Thu, 08/01/13

    Guangxing Lin

    Doctoral Student

    Guangxing Lin
    Once you set up a goal, try to break it down to several manageable tasks or many little milestones to keep you motivated.

    Graduate student Guangxing Lin earned the 2013 Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement from the College. “Once you set up a goal, try to break it down to several manageable tasks or many little milestones to keep you motivated,” Lin advises those working towards achievement.

    Lin says he enjoys being an AOSS student because of the excellent atmospheric program and thriving community. “One of my favorite experiences in AOSS was having a barbecue in Gallup Park and later playing Frisbee with fellow students…students are closely connected with each other in AOSS.”

    Lin says after he earns his PhD he plans to find a post doctorate position to “refine and expand the skills I have learned in AOSS.”

    Fri, 04/05/13

    Colin Zarzycki

    Doctoral Student

    Colin Zarzycki
    There are still significant opportunities to help save lives and property by better understanding these devastating storms.

    Doctoral student Colin Zarzycki won the Best Oral Presentation Award at this year’s American Meteorological Society Weather Analysis and Forecasting Symposium. His presentation was titled: “Assessing the Ability of Variable-Resolution Global Models to Forecast Tropical Cyclones.”

    Zarzycki says researching tropical cyclones is important because of the impact storms have on society. “These last few years have shown that there are still significant opportunities to help save lives and property by better understanding these devastating storms from both short-term forecasting and long-term climate change perspectives.”

    Zarzycki says his next step in the research is to conduct a rigorous quantitative analysis to analyze the effect of using variable-resolution global models, in particular CAM-SE, on short-term hurricane forecasting. “This is high on our priority list and will hopefully prove the fidelity of these models as highly useful tools as the community moves towards the next generation of atmospheric models.”

    As for the award, Zarzycki says, “There were numerous exciting presentations from students who have different ideas which will all help move weather analysis and forecasting forward, so I'm honored to be singled out.”

    Mon, 03/25/13

    Alex Bryan

    Doctoral Student

    Alex Bryan
    UMBS is a truly unique environment for graduate students to work and gain field experience.

    Doctoral student Alex Bryan is a leader for GUStO, the Graduate and Undergraduate Student Organization for AOSS. “Joining GUStO allowed me to get the most of out of my experience as a student as well as give back to the department,” Bryan says.

    Joining the leadership team gives students the opportunity to shape their own academic experience and the experience of fellow students. “Students gain invaluable leadership experience by coordinating faculty-lead career development workshops, department tours, recruitment events, and social events.”

    Bryan says he was motivated to attend graduate school at AOSS because of the abundant research opportunities in atmospheric science. “My advisor's research, in particular, motivated me to join the AOSS department. Upon my visit, the friendly and supportive faculty, staff, and students made me feel very welcome.”

    His favorite experience at AOSS has been participating in three summer-long visits to the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) in Pellston, MI. “UMBS is a truly unique environment for graduate students to work and gain field experience. Students sleep in tin cabins, eat healthy and delicious home-cooked food, and work outdoors in the beautiful forests of northern Michigan.”

    Wed, 02/20/13

    Caroline Kinstle

    MEng Student

    Caroline Kinstle
    Reaching out to younger girls and introducing them to women in science makes a big impact.

    Caroline Kinstle is an MEng Applied Climate student. In her free time, she stays involved with her undergraduate engineering sorority, doing philanthropic work such as science projects with Girl Scouts. “Reaching out to younger girls and introducing them to women in science makes a big impact,” she says.

    Kinstle also helped out with science projects for kids at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) WeatherFest, a series of interactive science exhibits designed to instill a love of math and science in children. WeatherFest was part of the AMS annual meeting in early January.

    Kinstle says her favorite part of the meeting was the student conference. “This year they did a good job finding speakers that were interesting to everybody. As a graduate student, I found the speakers helpful.”

    The MEng in Applied Climate program is great because it gives students the skills they need to see how the latest in-demand technology is affecting the earth. “It’s important to know how technologies affect earth processes so we can understand how to adapt or mitigate,” Kinstle says.

    Thu, 01/24/13

    Dori Mermelstein

    Undergraduate Student

    Dori Mermelstein
    Take advantage of all the resources around you and get involved.

    Dori Mermelstein excels in activities inside and outside of the classroom. Her hard work earned her a Leaders and Honors Distinguished Achievement Award from the College this year.

    She encourages others to make time for extracurricular activities because they can be just as important as academics. Mermelstein has served as a co-president for the American Meteorological Society Student Chapter and acted as a student leader for incoming transfer students. She also earned an International Engineering minor while spending a semester in Spain.

    “Take advantage of all the resources around you and get involved,” Mermelstein says. “It is a great way to meet new people who have similar interests as you, help others that might need it and build your communication and leadership skills.”

    Research experience is also a key part of education and Mermelstein is grateful to the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) for providing her with the opportunity to study the effects of atmospheric aerosols on surface energy balance.

    One of her favorite experiences in class was her final project for the Meteorological Analysis Laboratory course. She was able to study a severe thunderstorm from May 18, 2000 - the storm that sparked her interest in studying meteorology years ago.

    “It felt so rewarding being able to understand why the storm formed, how it was able to intensify and produce the damage it did on my hometown and what caused it to weaken as well.”

    Next year Mermelstein will earn her Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science, continuing her education in the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences department.

    Tue, 01/22/13

    Gina DiBraccio

    PhD Candidate, U-M

    B.S. in Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

    B.S. in Business Administration, University of Pittsburgh

    Gina DiBraccio
    It's an honor to be a part of it.

    Gina DiBraccio, a fourth year PhD candidate, is one of the youngest members of the MESSENGER Science team. “It’s an honor to be a part of it,” she says.

    On the team, DiBraccio uses both magnetometer and plasma data in an attempt to understand the dynamics of Mercury's magnetosphere, and how this relates back to Earth.

    Her work has not gone unnoticed. Her paper, “MESSENGER Observations of magnetopause structure at Mercury” earned an American Geophysical Union Outstanding Student Paper Award.

    At the annual AGU Meeting in December 2012, DiBraccio was recognized for her award. One of her favorite experiences at the conference was “meeting some of the well-known people in the field and having the opportunity to discuss research with them.”

    When asked why she came to AOSS for graduate school, DiBraccio says it was an obvious choice. “It’s one of the best programs.”

    Aside from her research, Gina keeps her life balanced by running, playing volleyball, and coaching a middle school volleyball team.

    Mon, 01/07/13

    Steve Boland

    MEng, Applied Climate

    Steve Boland
    It’s exciting. I’m hoping to be successful and help the program be a success - something other students want to get into.

    Congratulations to Steve Boland, the first graduate of the Applied Climate Master of Engineering program.

    Boland says one of his favorite experiences in the program was “going to the Glenn Research Center. It was exciting. Growing up, I always associated engineering with NASA.”

    Boland says he was drawn to the program because “I’ve always had an interest in environmental science and climate change.”

    Boland grew up outside of New York City and hopes to return to the East Coast.

    Fri, 12/21/12

    Zahid Hasan

    Graduate Student

    Space Engineering MENg Program

    Advisor: Darren McKague

    BSE Aerospace (U-M)

    Zahid Hasan
    I have an enormous respect for the intelligence and dedication from everyone at the University of Michigan. I don’t think people realize how much I value what I learn and absorb from my daily interactions with them.

    Zahid Hasan's passion and zeal for robotics and technology, along with his entrepreneurial spirit, have served him well over the years, from earning him the distinction of being the first university student to be published in Aviation Week magazine’s editorial page, to being named having the Most Social Impact Award - Student Showcase 2011. Other honors and awards include the Dare to Dream grant 2010,  Startup-onomics Summit 2011, and the TechArb Tenancy 2010.

    Zahid credits inspiring and amazing mentors for helping him parlay his passions and focus his research interests in the area of Cooperative Unmanned Systems. Zahid chose to pursue a MEng in Space System Engineering because of the practical focus on teamwork and solving impact-driven problems through technical excellence. In addition, Zahid's interest in figuring out how to harness technical ability into reality to positively affect lives has led to the creation of his own company.

    After graduation, Zahid's concentration will be on his company Medicron, whose mission is enabling developing nations to track and manage real-time health information for improved health of its citizens. During his "down-time," Zahid enjoys martial arts, hacking, programming, and cooking.

    Tue, 10/04/11

    Robert Alexander

    Ph.D. pre-candidate (Design Science)

    B.A. Performing Arts Technology (U-M 2007)

    M.A. Media Arts (U-M 2009)

    NASA JPFP Fellow

    Composer / Intermedia Artist

    Robert Alexander
    I'm always on the lookout for new data sets to audify! I think we can learn a lot if we open our ears to the sounds of science. Also, people should know that the Design Science PhD program at the University of Michigan is one of the few programs in the world through which this research would be possible.

    Robert Alexander's research lies at the intersection of technology and creativity. As a Design Science Ph.D pre-candidate, he's working to construct software interfaces for exploring scientific data in new ways. The core of his research lies in data sonfication with the Solar Heliospheric Research Group. Sonification is a process through which any kind of non-auditory data is translated as sound. They're transforming space data into the sonic realm such that they can gain a new perspective, and begin to ask new questions. Robert related that “as a media artist and electroacoustic composer, I've pushed for over a decade to create new tools for self expression. This has generated a keen awareness of the extent to which the creative process can be colored by technological tools. I was contacted by the Solar Heliospheric Research group (SHRG) due to my expertise in interface design and knowledge of algorithmic music composition methods. The SHRG is very innovative and forward thinking. This group is extremely inspiring to work with.”

    Robert's advisors include Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen (Professor, Space Science, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurship); Dr. Jason Gilbert (Assistant Research Scientist); and Dr. Mary Simoni (Associate Dean for Research and Community Engagement, Professor of Performing Arts Technology, School of Music Theatre and Dance).

    Honors and achievement awards include the 2011 NASA-Harriett G. Jenkins Pre-doctoral Fellowship Project (JPFP) Award; International Community for Auditory Display: Outstanding Achievement Award; Yahoo! Boost Award; University of Michigan Dean's Named Fellowship 2010-2011; and securing a Rackham Summer Research Grant.

    In his “spare” time, Robert enjoys writing music, playing chess, and reading. He also plays piano, guitar, cello, and drums, and even sings. He's even found time to teach computer music at the Interlochen Center for the Arts for the past two summers! Visit Robert's website at to learn more.

    After graduation, Robert is interested in advancing the field of auditory data analysis, and envisions this work will ultimately lead to a full-time position with NASA. He also hopes to build a larger bridge between the arts and sciences, and to continue rigorously exploring his own creative capabilities.

    Mon, 07/25/11

    Dara Fisher

    Undergraduate Space Weather Student (Minoring in Int'l Engineering)

    U-M Marshall Scholarship Nominee

    Dara Fisher

    As the daughter of a Michigan alumnus (class of ’73), Dara knew about Michigan, but it was the three days spent on campus as a part of the Shipman Scholar recruitment program that sold Dara on attending U-M. “I knew Michigan was the place for me.”

    Sat, 10/09/10

    Julie Feldt

    Graduate Student

    Advisor: Professor Mark Moldwin

    BS, Astronomy and Physics, University of Kansas

    Julie Feldt
    “Being a part of the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics made me completely change my graduate school plans.”

    After her 2008 REU experience, Julie applied to and was accepted into the AOSS PhD program in the Fall of 2009. She is a graduate student working with Professor Mark Moldwin, studying the ionosphere, plasmasphere and magnetosphere. Julie received a BS in astronomy and one in physics from the University of Kansas, where, interestingly, she worked for Professor Thomas Cravens, who was formerly at U-M and has been a longtime friend of AOSS and SPRL.

    Asked what people would least suspect of her, she said, “Most people are pretty shocked that I have a tattoo, it’s the symbol for Pluto. In the third grade I wrote a report on Pluto, and I've hooked ever since!”

    Wed, 09/15/10

    Catherine Walker

    Planetary Physics PhD Program

    Space Engineering MEng Program

    Advisor: Professor Mike Liemohn

    Catherine Walker
    “The main thing that drew me here was the sheer amount of research that comes out of Michigan, and the opportunity to do such neat inter-disciplinary projects was a big deal ”

    Catherine joined AOSS in the Fall ’08 after double-majoring in astrophysics and geological sciences at Mount Holyoke College (one of the Seven Sisters). This past summer, Catherine was selected as a NASA Student Ambassador — this follows six other stints at NASA either as an intern or a student in “NASA Boot Camp”. How did she do it? “I just kept applying and making contacts.” The perseverance expected of someone whose goal is to be an astronaut, is a certified diamond buyer by the Gemological Institute of America and watches NASCAR every Sunday.

    Now that Catherine is in her second year, she says that AOSS, with its “diversity of interests and inherent possibilities for research experiences,” gives her the freedom to try new things. “AOSS is definitely one of the more diverse groups of ‘space’ science departments that I found — in one hallway, you can talk to an atmospheric chemist, the next, a physicist, and in the next, hear all about the Sun or one of the planets.

    Catherine has recently taken up baking and decorating cakes and she has a twin who is pursuing an MA at the Cooperstown Graduate Program in New York (a premier program for History/Museum Studies).

    Wed, 09/15/10

    Jordan Feight

    ESSE Meteorology Concentration Undergraduate, Meteorologist, U-M Solar Car Team, 2010 American Solar Challenge winner

    Jordan Feight
    “Weather has always peaked my interest, and being part of the engineering school at U‑M has opened many doors for me. The opportunities that I have here is astounding”

    AOSS sophomore Jordan Feight had no idea what to expect when he came to U-M in the fall of 2009. He just knew that meteorology was what he wanted to study. That decision led him to connecting with the Solar Car Team and to spending a week on the road from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to Naperville, Illinois, doing daily forecasts and having critical input into the team’s winning strategy.

    “The coolest thing of being on the team was to watch the team evolve. Business students became mechanical engineers, industrial operation majors learned the electrical systems, and math majors broadened their knowledge of weather.”

    Jordan who used “fantastic equipment such as a WeatherHawk weather station, weather balloons, and pyranometers” says plans are underway for new weather tools, models and equipment for the next World Solar Challenge in 2011.

    Jordan will be following AOSS alumni Matt Trantham who was the meteorologist on the 2005 U-M Solar Car Team and Brad Charboneau who was meteorologist on the 2007 U‑M team. All three teams won the American Solar Challenge — a great AOSS tradition has begun!

    Wed, 09/15/10

  • Faculty and Staff

    Christiane Jablonowski


    Christiane Jablonowski

    “My work happens where mathematics meets physics.”

    Originally hailing from Germany, Professor Christiane Jablonowski​ first came to the Climate & Space (then called AOSS) back in 1998 to pursue a Ph.D, and ended up staying.

    She initially worked with (CLaSP Professor) Joyce Penner in atmospheric sciences for five years, but ultimately decided to shift gears. “I wanted to get back numerical modeling,” says Christiane. “So I found a source of funding and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

    Christiane’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining her interests in atmospheric science, mathematics, and computational science. On a broad level, her research is used to develop and implement large-scale climate models. “We use complex partial differential equations in our modeling, but they must be adapted to work within our framework. My work happens where mathematics meets physics.”

    Important byproducts of her work are the Idealized Test Cases used by atmospheric and climate study centers worldwide to potentially help debug new climate models. The rigorous ITCs can assist researchers in quickly finding and correcting errors in their models. She is affiliated with the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery & Engineering, where many of the larger scale climate models are run.

    Christiane is also a key organizer of the bi-annual summertime Dynamical Core Model Intercomparison Project (DCMIP) that takes place at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO. The DCMIP provides students with the opportunity to work with leading climate researchers, and employ field research standards (such as Idealized Test Cases) in working with real-world data.

    When she isn’t developing new approaches to modeling our enormous and complex climate systems, Christiane and her husband enjoying outdoors activities like waterskiing, hiking and camping (“we love the national parks, particularly the Rockies”).  About six years ago, she got into baking homemade bread, specializing in a nice sourdough rye.  She also has a very large fruit garden with a variety of trees and berry bushes. “We like to make homemade jam. It goes well with the bread.” 

    Fri, 04/07/17

    Mark Moldwin

    Professor and Associate Chair for Academic Affairs

    Mark Moldwin

    Communication and inspiration are common to both science and the arts and we can work together to benefit both of our domains.

    Professor Mark Moldwin, has had a busy year. In addition to his roles as department Associate Chair for Academic Affairs, Climate & Space graduate advisor, and professor, he was the recipient of the 2016 Waldo E. Smith Award, an honor given in even-numbered years by the American Geophysical Union for "extraordinary service to geophysics."

    And this year, Mark established a new Arts/Lab Student Residency in conjunction with the U-M ArtsEngine program. The Inaugural Moldwin Prize is designed for undergrad students enrolled in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning or the School of Music, Theatre and Dance interested in collaboration with students engaged in research practice in an engineering lab.

    Professor Moldwin was inspired to establish the residency in a discussion he had with a colleague. "I was a attending a workshop with [University of Illinois chemistry professor] Catherine Murphy. She told me all about her program, and I came away very inspired."

    When asked what he expects students will gain from this experience, Mark says, "I hope it is a two-way street. That my students get to learn about design and creativity from an artistic perspective, as well as learn how to communicate to non-science experts the work that they are doing. I hope that the Art Prize Fellows learn a little bit about science and engineering methods and space science."

    "Communication and inspiration are common to both science and the arts and we can work together to benefit both of our domains."

    Fri, 02/03/17

    Debbie Eddy


    Debbie Eddy
    I love getting close-up and personal with nature's inhabitants, while at the same time respecting them by capturing their images from afar.

    Nature and animal lovers in Climate & Space know to visit Staff Member Debbie Eddy regularly, for she often has beautiful photos to share of nature and wildlife in Ann Arbor.

    “I think I've always been interested in taking pictures of nature, but the real joy started when I got my first digital camera in 2012. It is a Nikon Coolpix P510 with 42x zoom! That's what I really love; it gets me in real close to the wildlife. I never knew sparrows were so colorful. And starlings — all iridescent purples and greens,” Eddy says of her hobby.

    Many of Eddy’s photos come from North Campus, but she also takes photos at home and makes special trips to local gardens.

    “I enjoy just sitting in my family room and snapping pictures of the birds at the feeder, though the pictures are sharper if I'm outside with the birds and the butterflies. But a really good place to find creatures other than backyard denizens is at Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road.”

    Eddy recalls that her most recent visit to Matthaei did not have as much wildlife as she had hoped, but she still came back with nice pictures of a great blue heron, painted turtles, butterflies, a killdeer, and a little green frog.

    “I love getting close-up and personal with nature's inhabitants, while at the same time respecting them by capturing their images from afar,” Eddy says on what she enjoys about photography. “On the other hand, the macro feature on my camera means to get a good close-up of small things, like bees covered in pollen and a preying mantis I found on my shed, I have to put the camera inches from them. That can be — interesting. It is also interesting to look at the photos and see the birds staring back at me. Seems like they are as interested in me as I am in them. And this often happens when I'm taking their picture from inside the house. How did they know?!”

    In addition to photography, Eddy enjoys crafts.

    “I'm not sure which gives me more pleasure, getting a marvelous photo of a bird or animal, or crafting a critter of my own for my Etsy shop,” Eddy says.

    “Lately I've been thinking about making a dragon…I'll have to see what I can come up with before the True North Craft Show in November. Of course, I also need to make some more cats. Maybe another cat with a book, and a mouse sitting on the pages. Any cat lover knows that's their trick: sitting in the middle of the magazine you're trying to read. So I think turnabout is fair play.”

    Eddy’s advice for new shutterbugs is: “Get the best camera you can afford.”

    “I bought this camera because I was frustrated with my old point and shoot not giving me the picture I had envisioned when I framed it in the viewfinder. So a digital camera is sooooo much better. No film to keep replacing, no waiting until it is developed to see what you actually got, and no paying for the developing. With my camera, it has a lot of stuff preset for you, so you can take great shots practically right out of the box. It has settings for parties, landscapes, nightscapes, fireworks, sports (what I use the most for active wildlife) and many, many more. Or you can turn it to manual and do all the setups yourself, if you know what you're doing. So you can grow as a photographer at your own pace. And the very best, I got it for ‘free’ using my credit card reward points. I've heard the newer version of this camera has 60x zoom!”

    Tue, 09/08/15

    Mike Combi


    Mike Combi
    We almost never accomplish anything significant alone.

    Professor Mike Combi received the 2013 Collegiate Research Professorship Award from the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research.

    These awards are designed to recognize exceptional scholarly achievement and an impact on advancing knowledge in science and engineering.

    Combi has also received the Distinguished Research Scientist Award from the University and an Outstanding Research Scientist award from the College of Engineering.

    His research interests include observation and modeling of the spatial and velocity distribution of neutral and ionized cometary gases and dust, Mars’ exosphere and atmospheric escape, cometary x-ray observations and planetary satellite atmospheric structure.

    Currently, Combi is a co-investigator for both the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) team, and the Visual and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) team, parts of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which arrives at the comet in late 2014.

    Combi is also the U-M Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) director and has been a member of numerous NASA and other national panels, such as the Hubble Space Telescope Planetary Science Review Panel, the Planetary Systems Science Management Operations Working Group and the National Academy of Sciences' COMPLEX.

    "It is a great honor to receive this award from the Office of the Vice President for Research and especially to be considered in the same company of those who have won this award before. I must also acknowledge and give credit to the contributions of all the past and current colleagues and students with whom I have worked, because we almost never accomplish anything significant alone."

    Wed, 06/19/13

    Andrew Nagy

    Professor Emeritus

    Andrew Nagy
    He demonstrates that one person can make a big, big difference.

    In 1944, Professor Emeritus Andrew Nagy lived in one of Raoul Wallenberg’s holocaust safe houses in Budapest. This year, Nagy participated in The Wallenberg Lecture and Medal at U-M, which honors Wallenberg’s commitment to selfless work.

    "His story needs to be continuously told and remembered. He demonstrates that one person can make a big, big difference," Nagy says.

    Nagy is a longtime member of the Wallenberg Executive Committee, which recently created the Wallenberg Fellowship for undergraduates.

    "Wallenberg went to places and pulled people off the trains, he was negotiating with the head of the German SS, he did everything he could possibly do, ignoring his personal safety,” Nagy says.

    Wallenberg, a U-M alumnus and Swedish diplomat, is credited with saving 100,000 lives during the Holocaust. This year is the centennial of Wallenberg's birth.

    Tue, 11/06/12

    Nilton Renno


    Ph.D., Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Nilton Renno
    My biggest hope is to find evidence for liquid water.

    Professor Nilton Renno taught a course in 2009 in which students performed the first tests to determine how much ground erosion the MSL’s landing process could cause, and how that could affect the rover.

    Renno’s students discovered that the supersonic rocket jets used to cushion the Curiosity landing could kick up dust and particles in the process. NASA took this information into account when planning Curiosity’s unprecedented landing technique.

    Renno will be watching Curiosity land on August 5 from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the team prepares to operate the rover. Renno says, “My biggest hope is to find evidence for liquid water.”

    Mon, 07/23/12

    Sue Lepri

    Associate Research Scientist

    Ph.D., Atmospheric and Space Sciences, University of Michigan

    Sue Lepri
    It's an exciting adventure and there's always something new and challenging.

    Associate Research Scientist Sue Lepri is the first female Climate & Space space flight instrument Principal Investigator (PI). Lepri is the PI for the Solar Orbiter Heavy Ion Sensor (HIS).

    HIS is a NASA-sponsored space instrument project that aims to study how the Sun creates and influences the heliosphere. "It's an exciting adventure and there's always something new and challenging," Lepri says.

    Lepri has been part of Climate & Space since her undergraduate days. "I've had amazing access to opportunities and good support from people around me. It made me feel like this was a place where I could really excel," Lepri says.

    One of the things Lepri enjoys at Climate & Space is teaching heliophysics. "I can bring in my research, my colleagues research, and what we do is we focus a lot on unsolved problems in the field. We try to have the students think about them, so while they're in the class they're doing real research that could be published if they take it far enough."

    Lepri encourages undergraduates to seek out research opportunities early. As an undergraduate, Lepri spent two years researching with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). "I think that as a student you shouldn't be shy in seeking out the opportunities that you want."

    Now Lepri is part of the groundbreaking heavy ion measurements of HIS. Climate & Space looks forward to the launch of HIS, scheduled for 2017.

    Thu, 07/05/12

    Christopher Ruf

    Director, Space Physics Research Laboratory
    Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering
    Professor, Electrical Engineering
    Climate & Space graduate advisor
    Ph.D., Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    Christopher Ruf

    The system will allow us to probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to understand their rapid intensification for the first time.

    Professor Christopher Ruf is principal investigator on a new NASA satellite project aimed to improve hurricane and extreme weather prediction.

    The $151.7-million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will make accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. It’s a constellation of small satellites that will be carried to orbit on a single launch vehicle.

    “The system will allow us to probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to understand their rapid intensification for the first time,” said Ruf. “This will allow us to observe and understand the complete life cycle of storms and, thereby, understand the thermodynamics and radiation that drive their evolution. Our goal is a fundamental improvement in hurricane forecasting.”

    The CYGNSS data will enable scientists, for the first time, to probe key air-sea interaction processes that take place near the core of the storms, which are rapidly changing and play large roles in the genesis and intensification of hurricanes.

    Tue, 06/19/12

    Allison Steiner

    Assistant Professor

    Ph.D., Atmospheric Science, Georgia Institute of Technology

    Allison Steiner
    Students get this full experience of data collection to analysis.

    Assistant Professor Allison Steiner earned a 2013 Henry Russel Award, the highest honor bestowed upon early-career faculty by U-M. Steiner earned the award because of her excellent work in teaching, research and the community.

When it comes to her classes, Steiner says one of her most effective teaching tools is “incorporating data analysis into my courses.”

For example, Steiner and her students in a meteorology course set up a flux tower to see what the instrumentation looked like. “Then we spend time in the data laboratory where we actually analyze the data so students get this full experience of data collection to analysis.”

    Steiner says the data experience shows students, “they’re not just programming for the sake of programming; they’re programming for the sake of trying to understand something scientifically.”

    For students who plan to start their career with a consulting firm or government lab, data analysis skills and data visualization software experience are helpful.

    “Working after undergraduate can be a really valuable experience, and I encourage a lot of our undergraduates to do that,” Steiner says.

    In addition to her work as a teacher, Steiner co-founded the professional peer-mentoring Earth Science Women's Network. “Often times the best advice comes from people within your field,” Steiner says.

Steiner is also actively involved in the United Nations funded Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ITPC), which trains scientists from developing nations. 
“I think that program is really unique because it really does try to reach out to people in countries where they may not have the resources to do the kinds of model simulations that we have the resources to do here in the U.S.”

    Steiner says the ITPC helps scientists set up model domains and develop the skills they need.

    Climate & Space looks forward to recognizing Dr. Steiner at the Henry Russel Award ceremony.

    Mon, 05/21/12

    Joyce Penner

    Associate Chair for Atmospheric Science

    Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science

    Joyce Penner
    Go with your heart. I think you've got to do the stuff you find interesting.

    Dr. Joyce Penner is a professor and associate chair at Climate & Space, and a review editor for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) upcoming report. For the IPCC, she read over a thousand reader comments and used them to provide authors with helpful feedback.

    She says her role is to make sure the document maintains a good outside view.” As a professor, Penner specializes in climate change, studying factors such as gas and aerosol interactions in the atmosphere, and the effects of pollutants from fossil fuel burning on aerosols and clouds. Penner says she is drawn to study climate because it is “important socially”.

    As associate chair, she aims to recruit more undergraduate students. She says the Climate & Space undergraduate program is great for preparing for graduate school, and it can also prepare students for careers. One of her goals is to “identify the jobs available for people trained in environmental work."One resource is the Earth Science Women's Network, started by Climate & Space associate professor Allison Steiner. It has a number of career opportunities for undergraduate and master's level students.

    Wed, 05/02/12

    Mark Flanner

    Assistant Professor

    PhD, Earth Systems Science, University of California, Irvine

    BS, Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    Mark Flanner
    “As seasonal snow and sea-ice evolve in response to climate change, they drive amplifying feedbacks, illuminating the importance of understanding the physics of cryosphere-climate interactions. U-M is an ideal place to pursue this research because of its breadth of academic expertise and recent establishment of the Climate & Space/GS Cryospheric Science Cluster. ”

    Professor Flanner came to Climate & Space from Boulder where he had been a postdoctoral fellow in the Advanced Study Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He received his PhD in Earth System Science from UC-Irvine and brings an interdisciplinary approach to researching climate processes. He is the author and maintainer of the Snow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiative (SNICAR) model (, a tool used to study the influence of aerosols on cryospheric processes.

    Wed, 09/15/10

    Xianglei Huang

    Assistant Professor

    PhD, Planetary Science, California Institute of Technology

    BS, Atmospheric Physics and Environmental Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China

    Xianglei Huang

    Professor Huang is mainly interested in understanding the entangled interactions between the atmospheric radiation, water vapor and clouds, and the atmospheric dynamics by diagnosis analysis of satellite observations and climate model simulations. Closely related to the main focus, he is interested and actively involved in the research of infrared radiative transfer and remote sensing as well as climate diagnostics. He also has published articles about planetary atmospheres, in which he still keeps tangential interest. In 2008, Geophysical Research Letter, the premium letter journal of the American Geophysical Union, highlighted one of his studies on the radiative impact of cirrus on the troposphere-to-stratosphere transport. Professor Huang currently serves as associate editor of the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.

    Wed, 09/15/10

    Michael Liemohn

    Associate Professor

    PhD, M.S., Atmospheric and Space Sciences, AOSS

    BS, Physics and Math, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

    Michael Liemohn

    Professor Liemohn has been a researcher in Climate & Space since 1998. Prior to that he was a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at Marshall Space Flight Center. His research interests include physics of geomagnetic storms, storm-time inner magnetospheric plasma dynamics and evolution, planetary plasma environments, energetic-thermal particle interactions, mid- and high-latitude ionospheric precipitation and outflow, and wave-particle interaction theory and plasma instabilities. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union. In 2002 he received the U-M Research Scientist Recognition Award.

    Wed, 09/15/10