"As far back as I can remember, I've always been curious about storms," says Aaron Pratt. When he was a small boy, his mother compared him to Sesame Street's Count von Count because they both got so excited whenever there was thunder and lightning.
As a teenager in the 1980s, Aimee Norton was an aspiring astronaut. At that time, the conventional path to outer space usually meant enrolling in the Air Force Academy, something that didn't appeal to her. She would eventually find herself drawn to the field of astronomy instead.
Andrew Gettelman has a broad perspective on what he does as a scientist. "My job is to try to figure out how the world works," he says. "There's a lot of fun in that, as well as infinite job security, since we'll never completely figure it out."
Claudia Tebaldi jokes that if different climate models were all in agreement with each other, she wouldn't have a job. A statistician by training, Claudia analyzes results from climate models to assess the degree of uncertainty in their predictions.
For Dave Gochis, a day on the job as an NCAR scientist might mean driving around the rural backroads of northern Mexico, setting up dozens of gauges the size of cookie jars that record rainfall to the nearest millimeter.
Doug has been director of NCAR's Institute for Mathematics Applied to the Geosciences (IMAGe) since 2004. A statistician by training, he leads IMAGe in its mission to bring mathematical models and tools to bear on fundamental problems in the geosciences.
As the Operations Manager at the NCAR Wyoming Computing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming since before the facility's opening in 2012, Gary New sees his role as being responsive to his talented team and their various work-related needs, not the other way around. Based upon his team's track record, his approach seems to be working.
Henry Boynton can tell you what the atmosphere looks like at 51,000 feet above Earth's surface, a good 15,000 feet higher than most commercial airplanes venture. "The biggest thing you notice is that the sky is a lot bluer," he observes.
As a field project coordinator, it's not enough for José Meitín to understand complex scientific concepts and know how to use cutting-edge instruments. He also needs a flair for foreign diplomacy, proficiency in several languages, and a capacity for great patience when dealing with customs officials.
Larry Cornman's career path has been unpredictable, somewhat like the turbulence he loves to study. Even though he enjoyed math and science as a schoolchild, his diverse interests pulled him in unexpected directions, such as living in a Zen Buddhist monastery after graduating high school.
Laura Pan describes herself as an "accidental" scientist. She never intentionally set out to pursue a science career. Rather, she began with an interest in theoretical physics and found herself drawn along as adventures unfolded, first in remote sensing and more recently in high-altitude research flights.
From an early age, Mari enjoyed making things work, taking them apart and trying to put them back together, but she was most fascinated by the interaction between nature and humans – particularly where water was concerned. Today she works at NCAR's Engineering for Climate Extremes Partnership (ECEP) at the intersection of her interests and talents.
Marika Holland recalls that when she entered graduate school at the University of Colorado, she had "the fuzzy idea of doing something with climate." She left graduate school with a sharp focus on the role of sea ice in the climate system.
As a graduate student in physics, Maura Hagan found herself frustrated and on the verge of dropping out. "I wanted to quit but the chair of the physics department would not allow me to," she recalls. "He was a profound mentor. He said, 'You may take a leave of absence, but you come back to me in one year.'"
Talea Mayo is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and has been working on increasing the accuracy of computer models by incorporating data into hurricane forecasts.
Tim Scheitlin grew up in southeast Iowa, where gigantic thunderstorms unfold across the open landscape. "I would sit in front of the picture window facing west, watching these storms roll through. My mom and dad were always telling me to get away from that window," he recalls.
One morning, six-year-old Ying-Hwa Kuo woke on his family's rice farm in Tai Chung, in west-central Taiwan, to a world transformed. A typhoon—the name for hurricanes in the Northwest Pacific—had brought intense rain and flooding.