Optimizing Instruments that Advance Science

Tammy Weckwerth, NCAR Scientist, Instrumentation Expert

Tammy Weckwerth is a scientist in NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory, where she uses data from instrumentation to work toward achieving field campaign objectives. Weckwerth is a Project Investigator for PECAN this spring and summer.

What influenced you to pursue a career in science?Weckwerth & Pinto Family

I always loved my math & science classes throughout grade school and high school. I majored in math & physics in college but I wanted to do something more applied. In the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I had a life-changing internship at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. That summer I did a bit of field work taking measurements of rainfall with a mini-sodar. That was so fun and it opened up a new possibility of atmospheric sciences for me. I was delighted to learn that my math & physics background made me qualified for graduate school in atmospheric sciences and that’s exactly what I did.

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

I’m a Scientist III in the Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) at NCAR. EOL has multiple instruments for the university community to use for their research objectives. Part of my job includes helping to develop and enhance our research radars and lidars and supporting those instruments for field campaigns that have been approved by NSF. I work with the S-Pol radar and a brand new water vapor DIAL instrument. In doing so, I help the PIs design their projects, collect their data in the best way possible and then help with data analysis, as requested. The other part of my job allows me to do my own personal research. For me, that’s on deep, moist convection and trying to understand the physical mechanisms that cause storms to form in certain locations and at certain times. I primarily use observational data to analyze the atmosphere prior to storm formation to determine the necessary precursor conditions. I also try to use numerical models to generalize the observational results. One of the highlights of my job is to work with scientists from all over the world. It is stimulating to get a wide variety of perspectives and insights on scientific problems through collaborations with them. It is also great to get to know them on a personal level. Those relationships are priceless.

Who are you outside of work?Weckwerth & Pinto Family

Outside of work my husband, James Pinto (RAL), and I have two children, our daughter is 14, and our son is 12. They’re both super smart, funny and budding young athletes. It’s amazing how much they are learning and how they absorb everything like sponges. We love watching them play various sports competitively. And James and I both enjoy playing along with them, although all of my family can now beat me in nearly every sport we play together. We enjoy our family vacations together, particularly when there’s a beach involved. I especially enjoy playing doubles volleyball and tennis and going for daily jogs. Basically I like doing anything outside like biking, hiking and just going for walks. 

What has been your favorite work-related experience?

That was probably my first field campaign which was in Florida while I was a graduate student. I was given the opportunity to do so many different jobs: be a radar scientist, a cloud photographer, a radiosonde launcher and radar scan optimizer. I even flew in a research aircraft. It was all so amazing, enlightening and fun. During the six-week field project, I had only one day off but I didn't mind because I loved what I was doing. The weather never stops. It was so rewarding to help collect the data that I would analyze for my PhD research project. 

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

Jim Wilson has been my mentor, scientific advisor and friend since I was a graduate student. I continue to treasure our relationship. His undying support, endless encouragement and (mostly helpful) advice have been so valuable. Jim was instrumental (pun intended) in helping me develop my career at NCAR. 

One-minute mentor

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

Go for it! Be proactive. Talk to people in the field about your interests and goals. Most of us are more than happy to help in any way we can, so use us. Simply, take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities you’re given, make opportunities for yourself and have fun with it all.

Tammy Weckwerth, NCAR Scientist, Instrumentation Expert

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