Hurricane Researcher and Mentor

Chris Davis, Director, ASP Program; NCAR Senior Scientist

What influenced you to pursue a career in science?Chris Davis as a child who loved weather.

First, my parents. They had no science background but were school teachers and were very encouraging. Weather naturally interested me from the time I was small. I was particularly intrigued by the intense winter storms we experienced in New England, especially on Cape Cod. As many kids, I was very interested in astronomy as well, no doubt aided by Carl Sagan and COSMOS. I could have gone in that direction, but meteorology seemed much more tangible and of practical use.

Who are you at work and what does a typical workday look like?

I direct the Advanced Study Program (ASP) and also am a Senior Scientist. There are competing demands. Because I have administrative, science, and mentoring responsibilities, every day is different. There are many interruptions and there is no "normal day." I have to carefully plan my schedule so I can get work done and still be available to talk to various people related to each of my three primary responsibilities. I have two offices (one at the Mesa Lab and the other at our Foothills Lab) and have many meetings. It is rather chaotic, but usually in a good way. When I am doing research, it is more directing the work of others than doing things myself, although I still reserve some time for my own work. I also work at home for at least a couple of hours each day.

Who are you outside of work?

I am a husband and a parent of two teenagers, trying to balance family life with work. I don't really have what most would call hobbies - there is simply no time. Our daughter (older child) is going to college this fall at Washington University in St. Louis. I coached Little League for many years, where both of our children played. I am a chauffeur who works for less than minimum wage - a LOT less.

What has been your favorite work-related experience?

Science: The BAMEX project in 2003 (stands for Bow Echo and MCV Experiment) investigating mechanisms that produce severe winds in squall lines and remnant circulations that bear some resemblance to the precursors to hurricanes, but over land. It was a great experience with a great group of people.

Mentoring: ASP postdocs and SOARS

Administrative: Working with the staff in ASP.

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

It is unfair to name only one, but if I have to it would be Kerry Emanuel of MIT. I have been extremely fortunate and have benefited from many people, especially at NCAR.

One-minute mentor

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

You have to be passionate about it.  You have to be patient (which I am not, really).  Scientific research is not a straight-line path to a result.  It is a surprisingly twisted, complex path where success often depends on recognizing the significance of where you end up even if it not where you intended to go.  You have to be willing to take risks in what you do.  You need a thick skin to accept criticism, but it is important to take comments from others seriously.  Nobody knows all the answers.  You need to be diligent, self-challenging, never totally satisfied; yet, you cannot be a complete perfectionist.

Chris Davis, Director, ASP Program; NCAR Senior Scientist

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