Meteorology to Modeling to Mosquitoes

Andrew Monaghan, NCAR Scientist, Meteorologist for Climate, Weather, and Health


What influenced you to pursue a career in science? 

In high school I wanted to be a marine biologist but decided to pursue an engineering degree in college because it seemed like a more practical career path at the time. I worked in engineering jobs during and after getting my bachelors degree, and soon realized it wasn't for me. Therefore, I quit and began working as a field technician at the Water and Environmental Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Our group maintained networks of meteorological and hydrological monitoring stations around Alaska. I loved it and wanted to gain the skills that would allow me to address research questions. Soon afterward I enrolled in graduate school to become a meteorologist.

Who are you at work and what does a typical workday look like? (Please introduce what you do as well.)

I'm the same person at work as outside of work. There is no typical workday because of all of the unexpected things (e.g., last-minute proposals, unplanned meetings) that arise each week that need immediate attention. There is usually little time to do research during a workday; so much of that occurs during evenings and weekends. Travel to meetings and field sites also keeps workdays from becoming typical. Outside of work as well, I'm the same person I am at work.

What has been your favorite work-related experience?

I enjoy working with my colleague Mary Hayden. As an anthropologist, her job requires much more field work than mine. I occasionally accompany her to assist in conducting surveys, and usually the locations are not the typical places people visit, which provides for unique cultural experiences. For example, working in the West Nile region of Uganda, I met a card-carrying witch doctor. Working with Mary has really opened my eyes to how complex the climate-and-health problems we address are -- it isn't all about weather.

The Power of One: If you could thank only one person for academic or career support, who would it be?

I wouldn't thank just one person. So many people contribute to the random and not-so-random aspects that shape a scientific career. They all deserve thanks.

One-minute mentor

What advice would you offer to someone interested in a career like your own?

Being a scientist is a nonstop, relentlessly competitive job.  Rewards are few and far between.  Occasionally, something good comes of it, and you feel like you've contributed to society. Those rare occasions make it worthwhile for me. And, the fact that as a scientist you more-or-less get to pick the problems you address.  These trade-offs fit my personality, which is why I enjoy the career.  So my advice is to consider whether an academic career fits your personality.

Andrew Monaghan, NCAR Scientist, Meteorologist for Climate, Weather, and Health

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