I can still remember the day: January 8, 1996, the Blizzard of '96. I was 10 years old growing up in Northern Virginia, and became immediately intrigued by how Mother Nature could wreak havoc in the form of snow measured in feet. At that point, I became a "weather weenie".
I went on to study meteorology at Penn State, receiving my B.S. in 2008. My love of weather expanded to a love of actually forecasting the weather using the output from advanced computer modeling systems that took into account complex physics and math equations.
After my time at Penn State, I was still itching to learn more, and continued my academic career at Texas A&M to study the fascinating phenomena of lightning. As part of my Master's work, I managed and maintained a real-time 3D lightning detection network for the city of Houston; for my written thesis, I studied short-term prediction of lightning, both cloud-to-ground and intracloud, over the Kennedy Space Center using a suite of observing tools and a similar detection network that I was managing in Houston.
While at Texas A&M, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a NOAA research cruise to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The professor that I was TAing for—Dr. Don Conlee—was asked by the National Weather Service to launch weather balloons over the spill area to investigate unusual winds being observed at night. It was on this cruise where my love of the ocean--and the interaction of weather systems with the ocean--was born.
Dr. Conlee had worked with Hugh Roarty, Director of Coastal Radar (CODAR) operations in the RU Coastal Ocean Observation Lab (RUCOOL), on the Ambrose Light tower in the Lower New York Bay several years prior, and suggested that I apply to work on my doctorate with the RUCOOL group. I had no idea if they were looking for a meteorologist to work in their primarily ocean-based research group.
It turned out that RUCOOL was, in fact, looking for another meteorologist on their offshore wind energy project funded by the NJ Board of Public Utilities (NJ BPU). Here I am today, second project in with the NJ BPU, continuing to develop my expertise on air-sea interactions in the complex coastal regime. I study the sea breeze-coastal upwelling feedback for NJ offshore wind energy purposes, and hurricane intensity forecasting (i.e. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy) using ocean observations (underwater gliders, satellites, CODAR) and modeling of the atmosphere and ocean. Both of these subjects have a strong link back to my first scientific passion as a kid—my love of weather born from the Blizzard of '96.