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Who's Who: Kate Fossell

Autumn 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and your career path. I’m a Wisconsin native and grew up fascinated by severe storms. Naturally, when it came time to think about college, I looked for meteorology programs in the midwest. I settled on Saint Louis University for my B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences and then earned my M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM).  After graduation, I stayed on at UWM as a researcher while also working for a UWM-affiliated meteorological consulting company called Innovative Weather. The job required 24/7 weather forecasting shifts, and I learned a great deal about weather communication and client interactions. But, I also realized that I enjoyed the research job much more.  On a whim, I applied for a software engineer job at NCAR and somehow landed an interview. Not surprisingly, they wanted an actual software engineer and not a scientist pretending to be one. But, another associate scientist position opened up that was a better fit, and I’ve been here eight years.

What does a typical day look like for you, and what are you currently working on? I work from my Colorado Springs home, so my days are typically spent on email, video calls, and working on projects on my computer.  I look forward to my one-day-a-week in the Boulder office. It’s usually jam-packed with meetings, but it’s great to see coworkers and have some face time.  I’ve worked with the NCAR Ensemble team for six years designing and supporting real-time ensemble forecasting demonstrations as part of hazardous weather testbeds. I also do storm surge modeling to investigate the predictability of storm surge. For the DTC, I serve as the NCAR co-lead for the Unified Post Processor (UPP) package. In recent years I’ve been working on projects that use container technology to create portable numerical weather prediction systems.

What do you find most rewarding with your work? Maybe not the most rewarding, but certainly satisfying, is finding a bug in the code and fixing it.  It’s fun to work on challenging projects that lead to new interests or spark someone else’s interest in a topic. I also like puzzles and the mechanics of things, so it feels good to streamline, automate, or improve a project to benefit someone else (e.g., user success stories).  I love to work and collaborate with extraordinarily intellectual colleagues, and knowing my work will advance science.

What did you want to be when growing up? A meteorologist. I always loved the weather. The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie as a little kid. I wanted to be Dorothy because she got to see a tornado, so my dad called me “Dot.” 

What do you like to do in your spare time (hobbies, interests)? I had a baby last year (boy, Liam), so he keeps me plenty busy.  I enjoy taking him hiking and camping with my husband. When I can find some extra spare minutes for myself, I enjoy mountain biking, puzzles, reading, and a good cup of coffee.

Where would you like to travel, and why? Belgium - to taste the beer, eat the frites, and watch cyclocross races.

Kate Fossell