News | Who's Who

Who's Who

Eric Gilleland

Winter 2024

Eric Gilleland is a Project Scientist II with the Joint Numerical Testbed (JNT) at NSF NCAR. He lends his expertise to applying statistical methodology to a wide array of applications. In particular, he identifies trends in meteorological quantities within a climate context, designing new methods for comparing large spatial fields such as high-resolution weather forecast verification, and extensive work in extreme-value analysis. Eric also manages the highly successful DTC Visitor Program. 

Eric is a bit of a unicorn being born and raised in Boulder, CO. As a child, he loved sports, especially basketball and anything that required running. He started weightlifting when he was 14, using the YMCA gym because they allowed kids under 18. Heavy metal was the soundtrack for his teenage years. As for school, he preferred math because he liked to “figure things out.”  He majored in mathematics at the University of Colorado (CU Boulder), though it was more abstract than he bargained for, but he stuck with it anyway. As an undergrad, he tutored math for the CU athletic department, which was exciting because CU’s football team was one of the top five in the nation. 

As is the case for many, his career path was anything but linear. His original plan was to teach high school math, but he changed course and went to graduate school at Arizona State University (ASU) to become an actuary and eventually discovered statistics. Eric switched majors and earned a Masters in statistics from ASU, and earned a Ph.D. from the world-class statistics program at Colorado State University (CSU).  

During the summer before starting graduate studies at CSU, Eric worked for the US West phone company and nearly did not go back to school. But, he quit when workers went on strike because he didn’t want to cross the picket line, and returned to CSU. During that year, he worked multiple jobs to pay for school.  Eventually he was offered a graduate research position at NSF NCAR with the statistics group called the Geophysical Statistics Project (GSP) led at the time by Doug Nychka.  Doug was an adjunct faculty at CSU and he served as Eric’s Ph.D. advisor.  Before finishing his Ph.D., Eric accepted an Associate Scientist II position working with Barb Brown in the Research Applications Lab (RAL). He finished his Ph.D. a couple of years later, focusing on spatial statistics and extreme-value analysis.

One of Eric’s main contributions to the DTC is to advise what elements should be included in MET/METplus, and assist with staff and external collaborators’ statistics questions. One of his favorite topics since joining Barb Brown’s group has been working on spatial forecast verification methods. He also enjoys working on extreme-value analysis applications when he has time. Eric manages the DTC Visitor Program, which draws collaborators from a wide range of organizations and institutions, and is a tremendous asset for the DTC. Eric feels one of the big challenges inherent in working for the organization is obtaining funding, which is a commonly held concern. But collaborating with great people is the best reward.

Eric spends his free time weightlifting and running. He has dabbled in French, and his Spanish wife motivates him to learn Spanish.  He also learned a fair amount of Frisian, a North Sea Germanic language, spoken by about 500,000 people who live in a province called Friesland on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands. It was once considered the closest language to English. He discovered this interest as a child but put it aside until adulthood when he could do a deep dive and build his passion for it.


Eric Gilleland

Dustin Swales

Autumn 2023

Dustin Swales works for NOAA-GSL where his primary role is leading the development of the CCPP Framework, the physics coupling infrastructure used by NOAA UFS applications. The Framework is used by a wide range of users beyond NOAA, and so a significant piece of this role requires working closely with collaborators at NCAR to develop this Framework across modeling applications. Tangential to this, he works on CCPP Physics development, the physical parameterizations enabled by the Framework. This involves working closely with physics developers, both internal and external to NOAA, to incorporate their advancements into NOAA operations.

He hails from Pittston, Pennsylvania, near Scranton where he grew up with a slightly older brother, who now lives in Colorado with his family as well. From an early age, he enjoyed spending time outdoors exploring. Fortunately his family home offered ample outdoor recreational opportunities nearby, whether this meant exploring old-growth forests in the Pinchot State Forest, searching (often unsuccessfully) for wild trout, or on a mission to harvest enough wild berries to bake muffins.

Dustin attended Penn State, and randomly picked Meteorology as a major without giving it too much consideration. It turned out to be a very good fit! He’d always enjoyed math and the physical sciences, so studying the atmospheric sciences satisfied his innate curiosities. He received his B.S in 2007 and M.S in 2009. As a graduate student, he built a shallow water model to explore near-frontal surface wind patterns observed by space-borne radar. At some point during that period, he became inspired to learn about computational methods and scientific programming. The first job he landed was at NOAA/NESDIS in Camp Springs MD, where he worked on algorithm development for ozone-observing instruments for a NOAA mission.

As it is for many of our staff, Dustin and his wife were always drawn to Colorado, and after three years of discussion, they finally made the move. His wife Amanda took a job teaching in Denver Public Schools and still works at the same school today. Dustin took a position at NOAA/PSL (CIRES). While working there, he split his time between two groups, enabling him to work on a variety of often disparate projects. With one group, he studied atmospheric rivers (ARs) and the pathways by which moisture is transported through the complex terrain of the Intermountain West, a region for which the stakeholders had a great deal of interest, given ARs’ hydrological impact on water resources. Concurrently, his work with the other group focused primarily on physical parameterization development, mostly relating to radiation and clouds. After 10 years at PSL/CIRES, he moved to NCAR/RAL to work on development for the CCPP Physics and CCPP Single Column Mode as part of the DTC. In 2023, he moved to NOAA/GSL, still with the DTC, to lead the development effort of the CCPP Framework.

A typical day for Dustin starts by waking up early with his 7-month old son, Dean. Currently he divides his time working on a few DTC projects along with other NOAA/GSL projects. On the DTC side, his main focus is unifying the development efforts for the CCPP Framework occurring at both NOAA and NCAR. Outside of the Framework, he also works on CCPP Physics development, lately with a focus toward making the library of parameterizations more interoperable. Outside of the DTC, he works on other CCPP-related projects, such as using Machine Learning algorithms in the CCPP and enabling the use of GPUs in the CCPP.

Where’s the reward for him? He feels many of his projects lie in the research-to-operations realm or related to operational development and support, and it’s deeply rewarding to support this mission. Building better software (hopefully) makes it easier for scientists to innovate, which in turn makes better forecasts.

Dustin and trout

Weiwei Li

Summer 2023

Weiwei Li joined the Research Applications Laboratory at NCAR in 2018. She leads and contributes to multiple projects focused on assessing model physics performance to inform their improvements in a modeling/forecasting system. She is currently working on testing and evaluation of the physical parameterizations, involving two major modeling systems, i.e., the Unified Forecast System (UFS) and the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS). Her team uses partially idealized simulations to isolate problematic areas in a given model, particularly the physics component, where most physical processes are parameterized. She compares simulated physical processes against reliable benchmarks, such as observations, to inform areas for improvement.

This is a good fit for Weiwei as she is a born investigator. She identified as an introvert as early as she can remember. She was fascinated by science books and mysteries. This fascination formed the basis for her love of all forms of investigations and challenges because they feed her passion for problem solving. Her original plan for her college study was either becoming a doctor or an archeologist. But somehow, she accidentally enrolled in the department of atmospheric sciences, not even realizing she actually submitted this in her college application. However, she learned to enjoy what she was studying. Because this field is very unique, she became fascinated by something entirely new instead of a subject she had preconceived notions about.


Weiwei's fascination with science books and mysteries formed the basis for her love of all forms of investigations and challenges because they feed her passion for problem solving

When asked how she describes her work to others, Weiwei explains that weather and climate models continue to suffer from systematic biases, many of which are related to missing or poorly represented physical processes and deficiencies in the underlying model physics. Process-based testing and evaluation of physics are essential for identifying and understanding the causes of model errors and biases, and to improve the overall performance of a weather/climate model, while ensuring that model adjustments or tunings can be justified on physical grounds. So, it is critical to conduct testing and evaluation of model physics components, their interactions, and the impact on the overall performance of a model, and using process-based testing and evaluation to advance understanding of physical processes.

The challenge of her work is also the most rewarding. Success requires deep teamwork, collaborations, and close coordination, all at a very fast pace. Another big challenge is knowing that one has to understand almost every aspect of a given model to distill and interpret information out of complicated processes in our Earth system to provide an objective evaluation of a modeling system.

When she isn’t assessing model performance, she’s juggling her work/life balance. Her daughter is entering kindergarten, and she tries to squeeze in some lap swimming. She’s a classical pianist, who’s also harboring a wish to play more jazz and occasionally plays duets with her daughter. She’s an avid reader of books about animals, culture, critical writing, traveling, and mysteries, of course. In addition to swimming, she loves yoga and barre (as she was a ballet student as a child). As fall approaches, she has a head full of home improvement and interior design ideas ready to go.

Weiwei Li

Xia Sun

Spring 2023

Xia Sun is a numerical weather prediction (NWP) scientist working at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder (CIRES) and NOAA Global Systems Laboratory. Xia works on hierarchical system development for the Unified Forecast System (UFS) and MYNN-EDMF planetary boundary layer (PBL) physics scheme. Before that, Xia lived in Reno, Nevada for three and half years to finish her Ph.D program in Atmospheric Sciences at University of Nevada, Reno. Xia has a research background in land-atmospheric interactions, chemical transport modeling, and boundary layer meteorology.

Xia spent her early childhood in a town in North China Plain. Once she was ready to attend middle school, she attended boarding school where she flourished and cultivated independence at a young age. She began keeping detailed journals to document her boarding school experiences, which she shared with her family as a way of painting a picture of her life that would later become an archive of her cherished memories from her earlier life.

Xia always wanted to work in the meteorology field, even when she was little. Her interest began when she would visit her aunt’s workstation at a weather modification office in a local meteorological bureau when she was only about six years old. She was particularly fascinated by the potential impacts that weather modification (through cloud seeding) might have on our lives. Motivated by these interests, she pursued a major in Atmospheric Physics in college.

Xia’s typical work day at her NOAA job involves code development and data visualization and analysis. She enjoys collaborating with her colleagues, exchanging ideas, and brainstorming together. Xia is currently working on projects focused on improving simulated marine boundary-layer cloud morphology and wind-forecast improvement along the east coast. The project Xia is working on at DTC and serves as a co-lead is applying a hierarchical approach, from simple to complex systems, to improve the deterministic and stochastic parameterizations. She uses a single-column model driven by a forcing dataset post-processed from high-resolution model simulations to investigate model uncertainty and inform stochastic parameterizations development.

The most fulfilling part of Xia’s job is knowing the positive impacts NWP scientists have on society. More accurate weather forecasts contribute to public safety and the well-being of people. The work of NWP scientists involves collaborating to advance our understanding of the complex behaviors of the atmosphere to refine and improve the model, drawing knowledge from disciplines such as physics, mathematics, and chemistry, among others. The collaborative environment makes the job dynamic and engaging. The intellectual stimulation through the community collaboration is another rewarding aspect of her work.

In her spare time, Xia likes to hike in the Colorado mountains with her family, weather permitting, of course. Hiking reminds her of the importance of perseverance, respect for nature, and the reward of beautiful views that cannot be seen elsewhere. Xia also loves visiting theme parks and national parks with her family and friends. Theme park visits make beautiful memories for the whole family, especially for Xia’s daughter, Mira. National parks offer an adventure that allows one to connect with the natural world and enjoy the breathtaking views of mother nature.

Xia at Green Mountain, Boulder, CO

Xia’s favorite quote is “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see further”--by Thomas Carlyle. This quote encourages her to step out of her comfort zone. By continuously pushing ourselves and embracing new experiences, we will envision new opportunities that were previously beyond our horizon. 

Mike Kavulich

Winter 2023

Mike Kavulich grew up in suburban Connecticut, the oldest of three children with a younger brother and sister. From his earliest memories he had an obsession with the weather, giving weather reports to his class in preschool, watching and re-watching weather documentaries recorded from TV on VHS, and tracking hurricanes on a copied paper hurricane tracking map taped to the wooden basement door. Because he did not have cable or internet, he would call his grandmother every day of the late summer to turn on the Weather Channel at 10 minutes before the hour to get the latest coordinates for active tropical cyclones, marking their locations with pins on the hurricane tracking chart in his basement. At the age of 10, a summer thunderstorm downed trees across his town, and produced a brief tornado. Mapping the paths of each downed tree and limb in his backyard convinced him that the tornado had struck there too – though the National Weather Service never called for his consultation. With this knowledge in hand, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he always knew he wanted to study the weather. Though he achieved that dream, it turned out quite a bit different from how young Mike imagined it.

From his earliest memories he had an obsession with the weather, giving weather reports to his class in preschool, watching and re-watching weather documentaries recorded from TV on VHS, and tracking hurricanes on a copied paper hurricane tracking map

His high school physics teacher encouraged him to broaden his horizons beyond the atmosphere, so rather than taking a direct academic path to meteorology, he attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts for a degree in Physics. Despite developing a learned love for all branches of physics, it was the atmosphere that kept drawing him back: he wrote his senior thesis on the physics of sand dune movement in the thin atmosphere of Mars. This led him to graduate studies at Texas A&M, where he studied the energy budget of storms in the Martian atmosphere, earning a masters in Atmospheric Science in 2011. After graduation, he was hired as an associate scientist in the NCAR Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory. There he worked on the WRF Data Assimilation (DA) project, creating documentation, tutorials, and eventually doing software development, not just for WRFDA but for the whole WRF system. 

In 2017, Mike moved to the DTC as a member of NCAR’s Research Applications Laboratory (RAL) Joint Numerical Testbed, where he now works on a variety of projects related to the Unified Forecasting System, or UFS – the next generation of weather prediction models for NOAA. He develops and improves the software framework for the UFS as well as the individual components, contributing to the build system, the workflow, and the Common Community Physics Package used by the UFS weather model. While most of his job could more accurately be described as software engineering than meteorology, he is grateful to be immersed in such a weather-centric environment. In addition to water-cooler discussion with his more scientific colleagues, he is able to find an outlet for his meteorological pursuits by making his own forecasts for his hobbies of skiing, hiking, and storm chasing.

Mike Kavulich at Hidden Lake Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana

Mike is married to Dr. Christina Holt, a former DTC member herself, who now works at NOAA in the Global Systems Laboratory. The two of them have lived a nomadic lifestyle since May 2021, traveling the country and living and working out of their camper van, Vincent. In September 2022 they finished their goal of visiting all 48 states in the Continental US. In addition to countless other goals, they hope to eventually visit all 63 National Parks – or however many there are by the time they finish!

Mike, Christina, and Vincent at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in western Texas

Molly Smith

Autumn 2022

Molly Smith is one of DTC’s NOAA collaborators on our staff, and recently became one of the leads for METplus. Her background is in tropical meteorology, and she is the primary developer for the METexpress visualization system.

Molly grew up in the chaparral on the edge of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. It does not rain very often in that part of the country, but when Molly was five, a strong El Niño flooded her hometown, turning the streets into rivers. From that moment on, she became very interested in learning how the weather works. Her parents, who are both artists, were very surprised that they had somehow produced a meteorologist, but encouraged her by getting lots of books about the weather and later sending her to science camp. Molly went on to get a bachelor’s in atmospheric science at Cornell University, and then a master’s in the same field at the University at Albany, where she examined various models’ performances in simulating the landfall of Hurricane Irene (2011).

Molly Smith

While at the University at Albany, Molly realized that she really enjoyed writing software, and that her ideal career would be one that combined both meteorology and programming. She was able to find exactly what she was looking for, and in 2017 started work as part of the NOAA Global Systems Laboratory (GSL) model verification team. There, she became the lead developer for GSL’s Model Analysis Tool Suite (MATS), which continues to be one of her primary responsibilities to this day. MATS is a lightweight, quick-start visualization suite which allows GSL’s model developers to quickly compare the skill of individual models and ensembles, as well as assess the performance of models under development. MATS also enables developers to produce publication-quality interactive graphs in a web-based framework, without needing to write their own code, and to perform a focused analysis of interesting weather features.

In 2019, the DTC began work on a spin-off of MATS that would display statistics produced by its METplus verification suite, with Molly again as the lead developer. This project became known as METexpress. METexpress was intended to work in tandem with the existing METplus visualization suite, METviewer. METviewer is a very powerful tool for performing in-depth analyses of verification data, but it can have a learning curve for new users. METexpress, therefore, is intended to fill this gap by giving users an intuitive interface with which they can easily produce common plot types and assessments. METexpress has greatly aided the adoption of METplus at GSL, allowing model developers to produce unified verification system-derived statistical plots in a familiar setting. This year Molly became the GSL team lead for METplus, and hopes to contribute further to the evolution of this excellent and versatile verification software package.

Outside of work, Molly can usually be found going for long walks, hiking, and catering to three very opinionated cats. She also has an extensive book collection and will eventually need to find places for more shelving. She regards this as a good problem to have.

Molly with her cat.

Will Mayfield

Summer 2022

Will Mayfield began working with the DTC as a co-lead on the Data Assimilation (DA) team. His project focused on the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) software. However, he recently transitioned into a co-lead for two projects: the Unified Forecast System (UFS) Short Range Weather (SRW) App support as well as Ensembles Testing and Evaluation. Successfully executing these roles demands a balance of software support, investigative science work, and project management. He has also collaborated on a variety of other projects including statistical evaluation of observation operators for DA, assessing GPS-RO observation errors, and testing stochastic physics schemes in the UFS. Staying ahead of the vast array of software and approaches used in numerical weather prediction is both challenging and thrilling to him, but the best thing is being part of all the fresh work being done with emerging tools.

Will’s life started in Stephenville, a small city in north-central Texas, where he grew up and eventually attended Tarleton State University. He majored in English and Languages (and then earned an MA), and also studied mathematics. His first project in computational modeling was lunar-forming giant impact simulations using particle approaches—watching the particles coalesce into a moon was fascinating. He enjoyed both the arts and humanities as well as sciences, but he ultimately chose to pursue a career in math and science. This decision led to his grad school experience at Oregon State University in Corvallis where he worked in Applied Mathematics and discovered his interest in the geoscience disciplines, including research on tsunami forecasting and uncertainty quantification for coastal hazards.

Although he didn’t know much about meteorology at the time, he’d always been interested in large-scale physical models. So joining the DTC and learning about weather forecasting was a terrific opportunity to dive into his newly discovered pursuit. Will says, “The atmosphere is such an immense, dynamic system that I’m constantly in awe of all the detail that goes into making good forecasts, and how creative the solutions are to all the problems we encounter.”

As much as he enjoys his work for the DTC, it’s possible that his most rewarding role is mentorship. This summer he was lead mentor to a student as part of the NESSI (NCAR Earth Science System Internship) program. It was a fun and rewarding experience that he hopes to have again in the future. He also participates in the NCAR mentoring program. Through his DTC roles, he’s also hosted a number of visitors, including Ivette Hernández Baños, a PhD student from Brazil, and Chong-Chi Tong, a researcher from the University of Oklahoma Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS) who visited on site at NCAR for October 2021. Both were great collaborations during which he supported their work, and in turn, drew invaluable experience from theirs as well.

Will Mayfield -- Mt St Helens summit


So, what does his life outside of work look like? Like most of us in Colorado, he hikes, bicycles, backpacks/camps, swims in lakes, occasionally fishes, and reads fiction of all kinds. He recently stepped into the popular pickleball fray. As for bucket-list pursuits, he’d like to return to Big Bend National Park to watch the Geminids meteor shower because it was cloudy the last time he tried. As for travel wishes, why not Kamchatka? It holds a special place in his family history because it was the most hotly contested location in family games of “Risk.” For those of you who have never heard of this board game, it’s a game of strategy, diplomacy, conflict, and conquest. Evidently, it’s the sort of game that stirs competition between family members that forges indelible memories.

Will Mayfield -- kayaking, Patterson Lake, Washington

Randy Pierce

Spring 2022

Randy Pierce is a NOAA partner whose software engineering talent supports METexpress. His software engineering role was inspired by his love of detail, building things, and an early curiosity about engineering.

From the beginning, he always had a passion for understanding how things work. He earned a dual bachelor's degree in physics and electrical engineering technology from Colorado State University Pueblo in the Colorado town where he was raised. After graduation, Randy was hired by Storage Technology Corp in Louisville, CO where he settled and made his home, married, and raised two kids. He spent a dozen years there as a hardware engineer developing advanced hardware and software used for automated testing of state-of-the-art enterprise level storage systems. He then pivoted to software engineering, but to make that leap replete, Randy returned to school, at night, to earn a Computer Science degree from Chapman University. After working in a software role for another 14 years with the same company, he and a couple of engineering friends were inspired to create and launch a virtual storage product of their own. In fact, they succeeded in developing the product, but selling it was a greater challenge, as is often the case. After that experience, and a couple of other short-term projects in the area, Randy landed a position with NOAA’s Global Systems Laboratory (GSL) in Boulder decoding weather data from BUFR format. Somehow, the role and responsibilities grew, and he found himself increasingly involved with lab software. Randy became instrumental in the development of the Model Analysis Tool Suite (MATS) framework for the lab and of a newer data ingest paradigm that can store lab verification data in a noSQL document database. MATS, as well as MET, historically used MYSQL relational databases for capturing and organizing meteorological data for statistical evaluation.

In Randy’s words, “I think about software, and data almost all the working day - and sometimes at night. Not because I worry about it, but because I love to build things and I can build things with data and software without having to lift heavy objects or get very dirty! Algorithms and patterns can be fascinating.” He always knew he wanted to be an engineer, and originally, he considered becoming an electrical engineer, but as it is with most lives, interests change and opportunities present themselves, so he shifted his focus to software engineering.

When he isn’t solving coding issues, he can be found enjoying the outdoors or building something in his large shop. He loves working with wood, metal, or whatever material presents inspiration. Unafraid of a challenge, he’s currently tackling the rewiring and re-plumbing of a mountain cabin. He’s an avid (and social) canoeing enthusiast who explores rivers with friends, Word to the wise, he is an accomplished pool player and plays in a league or two, so be forewarned before you challenge him to a friendly game. Hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, and anything else that involves the outdoors is where he replenishes.

Vis-a-vis “replenishing,” Randy dreams of developing the perfect battery as a bucket-list item. When asked about this esoteric dream, he replies, “I believe that we as a society need to convert to electric transportation and renewable energy as quickly as we can. Improving batteries is a part of this. I also believe that electric cars are by far more reliable and less expensive than gas powered cars when considered over the long run. I have owned an electric car since 2017 but I want a Rivean R1S SUV because it is, in my opinion, the best electric SUV available (well, available next year). That car can take myself and five companions to any paddling trip I can imagine.”

Randy’s advice? “Waste no days.” It seems evident that he uses all of his days to the fullest.

Randy Pierce

Julie Prestopnik

Winter 2022

Julie and her older brother grew up in South Florida. She worked her way through high school and part of college as a cashier at Publix Super Markets. She earned her college degree in accounting from the University of Central Florida (UCF). During her college years, she started working for the accounting department at the UCF Foundation, and by her senior year, she had earned a prestigious internship with Coopers and Lybrand.

In her freshman year at UCF, she met her future husband, Paul Prestopnik.  When Paul was accepted to CU’s graduate program, they both decided to make the move together to Longmont, where Julie took a job as the Assistant Vice President of FirstBank of Longmont.  The long hours and organizational frustrations of working at a bank soon set in. But, as is often the case, what seems like trouble at first can also turn into possibility.

Studying computer science became an attractive career choice, but it was a big risk to completely restart her career. Before doing anything drastic, Paul gave her some "homework assignments" to try out her aptitude for computer science. She enjoyed the challenge, and seeing how fulfilling Paul’s work was, she decided to make the change.


Julie Prestopnik

After getting married to Paul, in 2004, she took on a student assistant position at NCAR’s Research Applications Laboratory (RAL) working on the Dynamic Integrated Forecast (DICast®) System. A year later with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, she was hired as a Software Engineer I working in the Aviation Applications Program (AAP) on the InSitu Turbulence Project.

Since then, Julie has provided software engineering expertise and support to the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) project, the Pikalert project, the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG) project, and the Graphical Turbulence Guidance Nowcast (GTGN) project.  She started working in the Joint Numerical Testbed program, a collaborative facility within RAL that is connected to an international network of collaborators, on the Model Evaluation Tools (MET) project in the fall of 2012 and has been working solely with the METplus for about two years. 

Julie has led several RAL technology transfer efforts to external partners including the first successful transfer to NOAA's Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS) with the GTG code. Her software support of METplus with system installation, infrastructure, and maintenance, requires close collaboration with EMC at NOAA to install and maintain unofficial and official releases on various NCAR machines, NOAA machines, including WCOSS and WCOSS2, and community machines.   She feels fortunate to work with all of the seven METplus components (METplus wrappers, MET, METviewer, METplotpy, METcalcpy, METdatadb, and METexpress) as the documentation lead for the team.

Julie is deeply committed to RAL’s culture because she feels the organization has been such an excellent match for her work style and work/life balance. To reciprocate these cultural benefits, she recently joined the RAL Communications Committee, and is a member of the UFS Workflow team, and an NCAR level-recognition committee.  She attends the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) meetings, Forging Allies and Connections for Equity in STEM (FACES) Meet-Ups, the True Colors meetings, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Book Club meetings when she can to deepen her understanding of RAL’s diverse and inspiring staff.

Spending time with family (12-year-old daughter), walking, running, hiking, reading, listening to her daughter play music (piano and trumpet), traveling, volunteering, going to the theater, sleeping, watching movies, playing games all replenish her reserves. As if her job wasn’t enough of a commitment, she also gives back in her personal life. Julie serves on the Board of Directors for her daughter’s middle school and co-leads her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  She hopes the family can travel to Peru on a school trip, which would make three continents they’ve visited so far. Only four more to go!

Julie Prestopnik and family New Year's Day 2022 at Chautauqua, in Boulder Colorado.

Ka Yee Wong

Autumn 2021

Ka Yee Wong was born in Hong Kong, the British colony once known as “The Pearl of the East,'' before the 1997 handover to China from the British government. She grew up in a large family, the fifth of six children (four sisters and a brother). Ka Yee was very active in school sports, shining as the only girl who played competitive ping pong and basketball with the boys. As a child, Ka Yee loved exploring the outside world, especially gazing up at the sky. In her words she “loved watching the clouds moving from one part of the sky to another, rain falling from the sky, lightning during a storm, and her favorite was looking out of the window when a typhoon made landfall.” 

Science was her favorite subject in elementary school. This was further fueled by her trips to the public library to read science books even though she couldn’t yet understand English at that age. But just the pictures in these books inspired her so much that she wanted to learn more, and this inspiration motivated many of her future educational choices. 

She grew up in a typhoon hotspot influencing her desire to be a typhoon forecaster who would serve the safety of her fellow citizens by predicting the weather. She attended UCLA where she received her undergraduate degree with a double major of atmospheric/oceanic sciences and mathematics, then earned a masters degree in atmospheric sciences. In graduate school, she was a teaching assistant for the meteorology and air pollution classes, where she discovered that she had a talent and love for teaching. Her master thesis work explored how microphysics schemes and initial environmental relative humidity impact the hurricane track and intensity performance in WRF idealized simulations without the presence of land, thus WRF simulations solely over water.

Currently, she is a CSU CIRA Associate Scientist who has been actively involved with several diverse projects since finishing graduate school in 2009. Many of these projects made a lasting impression on her. She gained a great deal of knowledge and inspiration from projects such as the Nonhydrostatic Icosahedral Model (NIM), WRF-CHEM, Unified Post Processor (UPP), and High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Smoke (HRRR-smoke). From a series of NWP model projects such as the MM5 (undergraduate), WRF (graduate+early career), and FV3 (current model), she saw how the models evolved and became more sophisticated. Ka Yee is very proud to be a member of the meteorological community, to contribute her knowledge, and further dedicate her career to this field.

Ka Yee explained to her oldest son, now 8, that her job working on weather models requires a lot of software development or “coding.” She made the analogy of how it is similar to playing video games. Each player tries to advance to each higher level of the game until the end, so her job is to write/debug code to advance toward her goal and move on to the next level as well. She loves her job and enjoys every day of work.

She married her husband Athanasios, who is of Greek origin, on a numerically auspicious day, 2011-11-11. In so doing, they also married the two ancient cultures and traditions of their families. She is now a mother of three children, with two young boys and a 6-month old daughter. Her family is very active; enjoying basketball/ snowboarding/ hiking/ video gaming/ and travel. Ka Yee is looking forward to the future and how it will unfold both for advancements in forecast models as well as her children as they grow up and navigate their own lives. Her personal mantra is: In our journey of life, we will certainly encounter many storms. Even so, we will endure as we pass surely and steadily through every storm of life. After each storm comes the rainbow!

Ka Yee Wong with son Michael, daughter Antigone, and son Raphael

Mrinal Biswas

Summer 2021

Mrinal Biswas was born and raised in Durgapur, West Bengal, India, a small industrial town. He was raised by a Civil Engineer father while his mother took care of him and his sister. He enjoyed school but even more enjoyable was the time he played outdoors with his friends late into the evening. He was fascinated with anything electronic from radios to vinyl record players, even watches, disassembling them while his mom took his sister to school and quickly re-assembling them before she returned. It made him feel like an “engineer.” Once, he was playing with a speaker and connected the two ends of the wires from the speaker to a 1.5 V battery (DC). It made such a feeble sound, he decided instead to connect them to a 220 V electrical outlet (AC). Although the experiment was successful in that it was certainly louder, he didn’t expect the explosion of sparks from the short circuit he’d caused.

So, it comes as no surprise that Biswas entertained the notion of becoming an engineer. He often visited the Durgapur Steel Plant where his father worked, awed by the towering blast furnaces that served as the backbone of the factory. 

Ultimately, he attended Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India and studied Physics, Geology, and Mathematics for his Bachelor’s degree. During that period, he became attracted to Geophysics because it was an applied field, and soon after, he enrolled in their M.Sc (Tech) program. But a drastic turn of events would shift his educational focus to meteorology. 

A severe cyclone made landfall in Odisha in the eastern part of India, during which ten thousand people lost their lives. At that time, local area managers were unprepared for a cyclone of that magnitude. The disaster and emergency management teams were not able to grapple with the damage. And, because the forecasting was so poor, no one had time to prepare an effective strategy for evacuation. The overwhelming damage and loss caused by this event had a significant impact on Biswas, and he knew that meteorology was a discipline where he could make a difference.  Coincidentally, his meteorology teacher held a class on tropical cyclones which further honed his interest, and tropical cyclones became his new passion.

After earning his Masters degree, he was hired as a Research Associate at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India. It was there that he was introduced to supercomputers and learned to run MM5. He then moved on to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, India in 2002 to pursue a PhD. He was working on a project to study the nonlinear interaction in the energetics of monsoon, but fate had other plans. He was offered the opportunity to work with the renowned (late) Prof T. N. Krishnamurti of Florida State University (FSU), Tallahassee to work on multimodel superensemble for hurricanes, which was irresistible. His dream of studying tropical cyclones was finally becoming a reality. 

After moving to the USA in 2003, he performed real-time hurricane forecasting over the Atlantic basin, passing the FSU superensemble outputs to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.  His team was able to provide the most accurate forecasts for the 2004 hurricane season, which still stands as the highlight of his early career. He continued to improve the quality and usability of the model. The HFIP-Corrected Consensus Approach (HCCA) model developed by NHC is based on superensemble methodology. 

Biswas was first introduced to NCAR when he attended a WRF tutorial, and then the first Hurricane WRF (HWRF) tutorial in 2010. He was so impressed with the knowledge and dedication of the scientists at NCAR that he made the decision to join the group in 2011.  He continued to hone his expertise with the HWRF model. Growing his expertise and collaborating at the DTC provided him an unique opportunity to feel he was helping people in a tangible way. As a result of this career trajectory, he was asked to join the teaching team for the second HWRF tutorial. 

He now answers questions from the user community, replying to all the questions for the HWRF and GFDL vortex tracker public release codes. A great deal of testing and evaluation work continues as well. Biswas became involved in the Model Evaluation Tool (MET) plus software and contributed to use cases. He is currently working on the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS), which involves regression testing, testing with different physics options, and diagnostic evaluation. Bringing research innovations into operations and vice versa continues to be the most rewarding aspect of his work. 

When not evaluating model performance, he and his wife enjoy their two daughters (7 & 2), kitchen adventures with risky recipes, and digging into the occasional DIY project. Traveling, once COVID-19 concerns recede, will be a welcome diversion.

Mrinal Biswas

Evelyn Grell

Spring 2021

Evelyn Grell’s story begins in a suburb of Philadelphia, PA where she was raised.  Her interest in weather was inspired from spending time with grandparents on the Jersey shore.  Her grandfather was an avid sailor and even built his own sailboat. Naturally, monitoring the weather and especially the wind direction was essential before setting sail. 

Evelyn never seriously considered meteorology as a career until she was obliged to take a meteorology course in college for her undergraduate degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences. Understanding the ever-changing weather through the lens of physical laws had great appeal.  Riding the momentum of this new passion, she earned a master’s degree in meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University, where she was introduced to numerical weather prediction. This was during the 1980s when an active partnership was in place between Penn State and NCAR in NWP work, thanks to the pioneering work of Richard Anthes, Thomas Warner, Nelson Seaman and others, in developing the Penn State/NCAR model, which evolved into MM3, MM4, and finally MM5.  That model was a predecessor to the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF).  Thanks to this connection, she landed a position right out of school, working on a collaborative project between NCAR and NOAA, applying modeling to investigate the potential impact of the new (at the time) wind-profiler network on weather prediction.  

After nine years at NOAA, her meteorological career took a long hiatus when she and her German husband Georg decided to try living in Germany.  Georg promptly found a job there and Evelyn was able to spend time at home with their two young sons.  That was certainly not without challenges, as she knew very little German at first, so she endured some feelings of isolation throughout this period.  However, they were fortunate to live in a spectacularly beautiful area at the foot of the Alps, and eventually made lifelong friends there.  After four years, they decided to return to the Boulder area where Georg accepted an opportunity at NOAA/CIRES.  Evelyn worked in the local elementary school for a couple of years until a meteorology opportunity knocked. 

Currently, Evelyn’s work involves testing and evaluation of various model physics parameterizations in the single-column and regional versions of the UFS model and WRF. Typical tasks include running the model, implementing some changes, then running it again, and analyzing the results to determine the impact of the change.  

Evelyn has divided her time between two different DTC projects.  The HWRF Physics Advancement project focused on evaluating physics changes in the Hurricane WRF model, specifically the convection parameterization. That project was both interesting and challenging because it offered insight into elements of a complicated cycled model system that she had never dealt with before.

She currently belongs to the Physics Across Scales/Planetary Boundary Layer Team, which is assessing the performance of two operational physics suites across spatiotemporal scales in an effort to evaluate whether these suites can be applied across the broad range of scales needed for our operational models.  This team is also examining potential causes of observed biases in the model boundary layer. 

Collaborating on these DTC projects has offered her the opportunity to interact with some exceptionally bright people, and to learn new skills and new approaches for improving operational weather prediction.

Evelyn enjoys hiking, reading, puzzles, cross-country skiing, and she and her husband are looking forward to traveling the world when the pandemic is no longer a concern.

Evelyn Grell

Tatiana Burek

Winter 2021

Many of you may know Tatiana Burek as the developer and gatekeeper of METviewer, the visualization software for the verification package developed and supported by the DTC, but her life took a series of turns to arrive at the DTC. She grew up in Leningrad, Russia where she spent her childhood as a passionate competitor, both as a speed skater and swimmer, all while attending rigorous dance classes. Undaunted by year-round swim team practice sessions in the outdoor pool, whose coach only cancelled classes when temperatures dropped below 20 degrees F, her love of swimming eventually metamorphosed into a passion for scuba diving. 

Tatiana and her husband are now avid divers listing trips to venues such as the Great Blue Hole in Belize (her deepest dive was 130 ft), Fiji where she was dazzled by brilliant corals, the cenotes in Mexico where light filters through the cracks in the underwater caves, and numerous night dives when shy sea creatures emerge in the total darkness and are easily spooked by flashlight.  She and her husband love the undersea world so much they wanted to bring that experience to the disabled. To pursue this, they participated in carefully structured dive events that introduce this joy to individuals who may never have imagined the possibility of experiencing the marvels of the ocean.

Although Tatiana’s mathematical acumen shone brightly during high school, she discovered computer science in college and dove into programming with bold enthusiasm. The odds were in her favor, as it turned out. At the time, computer programming was considered to be a girl’s profession and the only two boys in the class were outnumbered by 30 girls. She furthered her education in computer science at Northwest Correspondence Technical University while supporting herself as a programmer. 

As is often the case, learning doesn’t stop after University. Tatiana moved to the US in 1999, which necessitated not only learning to speak English, but also relearning to program - in English. She went ahead with a full reboot. 

Tatiana is now the Software Engineer who both develops and manages METviewer. She found her way to the DTC when METviewer lost its developer and she was offered the opportunity of maintaining it. Barb Brown, John Halley Gotway, and Tressa Fowler so impressed her with the work they were doing that she jumped at the opportunity to join the team! In short, her role is to augment the tool with new features and fix bugs as they arise. Through a non-DTC project, Tatiana also developed a visualization tool for the National Hurricane Center to view hurricane tracks on the interactive map. Creating helpful user interfaces is something she really enjoys. Fortunately, the Research Applications Laboratory is full of opportunities to implement her ideas, while developing helpful tools for scientists.

Hopefully, her future will include more sublime underwater exploration, but in the meantime, she offers this quote, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Tatiana Burek

Keith Searight

Autumn 2020

Keith Searight joined the DTC in June as NOAA GSL’s co-lead for the Model Evaluation Tools (METplus) verification system, which is becoming the unified verification, validation, and diagnostics software for the Unified Forecast System (UFS). He also performs DTC-wide project management duties for GSL, such as project tracking, budgets, and reporting. Previous to this job, he was NOAA’s technical lead for Science On a Sphere, and continues to do so part time.   

Keith grew up in a small college town in central Illinois surrounded by corn fields. After attending college at the University of Tulsa, double majoring in geosciences and computer science, he attended Stanford for an MS in geophysics.  Although he started his career as an applied geoscientist in the energy business, he decided to switch to a more computer-focused career,  studying computer science part time at CU Boulder.  After earning his MS degree, his first software job was a research programmer in the Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at University of Illinois writing gridded data management and visualization software.  Later, he became a commercial software developer, working for several small startup companies.  He pivoted his career again toward scientific research labs by joining NCAR’s Research Applications Laboratory in 2008, where he led the software engineering of weather forecasting systems for military sponsors.  After NCAR, he worked for a period at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, then he joined Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CSU/CIRA) at NOAA GSL in Boulder seven years ago.  

The variety of his work is what inspires him, as his role encompasses software coding, technical writing, and managing people and projects all in the name of improving forecasting skill. On any given day, he might work on budget analysis and tracking, project management and reporting, software testing, application and script coding, and documentation writing. 

The study of the earth’s atmosphere and simulating its properties requires programming computer software run on supercomputers.  In simplified terms, the focus of his work is developing the software that gauges how close the forecasts matched what actually happened and then generates graphics that help analyze their accuracy.  Those results are used to develop and test out new ideas to make our weather forecasts even better.  

His first job, however, was a far cry from his current profession. Growing up in the Midwest, summer jobs in the agricultural arena were the most plentiful options for teens.  So one summer, he worked in the fields detasseling corn.

Thankfully, he had greater dreams to fulfill. When he was a kid, he aspired to be an astronomer and study the solar system.  He had his own telescope and avidly followed the new discoveries and wondrous imagery captured by the spacecraft flying near the planets and moons.  Although his eventual career ended up being a little more “grounded,” it just means his focus has been more specifically dedicated to studying just one important planet, our own. 

When asked what he loves about his job here, he replied, “I really enjoy the variety of science, technology, and management activities in which I’m involved.  I’m inspired by DTC’s mission to partner with NOAA, NCAR, and other organizations to make weather forecasting as accurate as it can be. I also appreciate all the community connections and collaborations that we have across government and academic institutions in the US and around the world.” 

Keith has lived in Colorado for decades now. He’s married with two adult sons in college studying nuclear engineering and cyber security, respectively

Favorite quote? Well, these are strange times, and the following quote seems to fit. 

“The optimist proclaims we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.   ~James Branch Cabell

Keith Searight

Lindsay Blank

Summer 2020

Lindsay Blank joined the DTC as an Associate Scientist in January 2018; this is her first career position in the field after completing school. She grew up in the D.C. area of Maryland, and earned her  B.S. in Meteorology and B.S. in Computer Science at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania. Her Computer Science degree was added  in her junior year of college after interning at the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman, Oklahoma where she was introduced to numerical weather prediction models. She earned her M.S. in Atmospheric Science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. 

Lindsay is involved with the Letters to a Pre-Scientist and Skype a Scientist programs, which have honed her ability to “speak science” to youngsters and wider audiences. In her words, she explains her job, I test computer programs that predict the weather and try to make them better so people can be safe and informed.” She is passionate about promoting these volunteer programs as she believes they provide excellent opportunities to engender a love of science in youngsters. 

How did she learn to love science? She wanted to be an architect until the Spring of 2001 when she saw her first tornado. Her dad was driving her and her sister home from a birthday party. Her dad didn't have the radio on so he didn't know that her small town was under a tornado warning. The rain was coming down so hard they could hardly see out of the windshield. When they turned the corner onto the main street, they looked toward the horse field and there was a tornado! “My little sister started crying, my dad grabbed the wheel white-knuckled, but my face was pressed against the window, in awe. Instead of turning around, my dad, a former taxi driver in the Bronx, kept driving. Thankfully, the tornado was moving in the opposite direction. My mom was waiting for us nervously in the driveway. I jumped out of the car talking about how exciting it all was. I asked for my first weather radio that Christmas and decided I wanted to study the weather.”  

Her typical work day mirrors those of many others, starting by checking email and prioritizing her tasks. She works across multiple projects, like most of the DTC staff. Ensuring she’s making the progress expected of her on each one is a balancing act, naturally. Most of her tasks involve validation and verification of different NWPs and their products. She also works on development for the Model Evaluation Tools (MET). Right now, she’s working on validation and verification for the Air Force, leading the development of multivariate MODE functionality, and testing METplus capabilities for sea ice and ocean verification purposes. 

When asked about specific challenges she faces, she answers that it’s the selection of the most appropriate statistic or measure for each validation or verification case. “There are so many statistics and metrics, selecting which ones to use is the most important part of analysis in my opinion; ‘put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out’ as the phrase goes, so I have to decide carefully.” She loves the challenge, however, because it forces her to carefully assess every aspect of the problem at hand, and inspires her to learn more. This aligns with the values that she finds rewarding in her work. Knowing that she’s instrumental in helping to improve the tools operational forecasters use, while providing useful information and tools to model developers and users are the elements that fulfill her. “It means that in some small part, I'm helping to keep people safe.”

One of her favorite quotes is a line from the Walt Whitman poem "Song of Myself." "I exist as I am, that is enough".

Lindsay Blank

LinLin Pan


Spring 2020

LinLin was born into a family of farmers in Southeast China where the weather is dominated by the Asian Monsoon. “I can’t remember how many times my parents sighed gravely in front of the ruined crops because of the wrong prediction of Mei-yu – endless rainy days during the summer. My family would starve in this case.” LinLin was determined to study weather to help farmers, and now he works to make sure severe weather events are forecasted accurately.

Diligent and determined, Linlin was accepted into the Department of Geophysics at Peking University, one of the best universities in China. After a few years of teaching, lecturing, and research Linlin came to the U.S. to expand his interest in weather forecasting and modeling. Linlin earned his Ph.D. in Meteorology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa within 5 years and came to Boulder to work at NCAR for 10 years before landing at NOAA. “Now I am working at the NOAA Global Systems Laboratory (GSL) with the Common Community Physics Package (CCPP), FV3-Stand-Alone Regional model, and physics across scales. My typical daily tasks include running the model, investigating model outputs, and providing user support for CCPP related questions. I am currently working to use CCPP in the coupled model.” One of LinLin’s biggest challenges is to help folks using other platforms to run the model outside of NOAA. “It runs fine on NOAA HPC, so we need to help them debug,” says LinLin.

“If I was not a meteorologist, I would become a builder or constructor.” Linlin likes to do yard work and help around the house in his spare time. Other fun facts are that he would like to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic to study ways to help animals survive if our country suddenly turned icy cold. His favorite quote is “the early bird catches the worm,” and he wishes he had the power to predict the future.

LinLin Pan

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

Gerard Ketefian

Spring 2019

Gerard Ketefian tries to “get big computers to tell him if it’s going to be sunny or rainy or snowy tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, and…” that’s how he explains his job to a child - and he has two -- a 2-year old boy and 4-year old girl.

Gerard’s background is engineering. He has a B.S. in civil and mechanical engineering and M.S. in environmental engineering with emphasis on environmental fluid mechanics (both air and water). Gerard’s Ph.D. involved computational fluid dynamics applied to atmospheric dynamics.  His first job after graduate school involved modeling of hydrodynamics -- modeling of transport in San Francisco Bay. When the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, Colorado offered Gerard a position in NOAA’s Global Systems Division (GSD), he decided to return to atmospheric applications.  

Gerard currently works on two DTC tasks - the UFS-CAM project (Unified Forecast System - Convection Allowing Model) and the MERIT project (Model Evaluation for Research Innovation Transition). He is currently developing a community workflow for the FV3-Stand-Alone Regional Model (FV3-SAR), and implementing new features such as getting initial and boundary conditions from sources other than the GFS, enabling a new and more uniform grid, and enabling the use of the Community Common Physics Package (CCPP) to swap physics parameterizations easily. And of course, documentation of every step. What is rewarding about his work? Gerard says, “Finally getting a piece of code I've been working on for many days or weeks to do what I intended it to do!”

Gerard looks forward to the days when his kids are old enough to enjoy travel, and he hopes to spend time in Europe and South America. “Travel gives me the opportunity to get out of my daily routine and to put myself in a completely new environment.  It's rejuvenating.” But for now, if he could have a superpower, it would be to be able to slow down time, just for himself.

Gerard Ketefian

Guoqing Ge

Summer 2018
Guoqing Ge on Trail Ridge Road

“Read ten thousand books and travel ten thousand miles.”  – A Chinese proverb and a favorite quote of Guoqing Ge who loves to read, would choose the superpower ability to fly, and has an ambitious travel bucket list that includes the North or South Pole and the Amazon rainforest. He has already traveled far from his hometown of Anqing China, an 800-year old city on the shores of the Yangtze River. Anqing is a 4-hour high-speed train ride to Shanghai, and almost 7,000 miles from Longmont, Colorado, where he moved with his wife and son in 2015.

Guoqing earned his Bachelor’s degree in Meteorology from Nanjing University in China, and a Master’s from Peking University. His Ph.D. on convective-scale data assimilation is from the University of Oklahoma, where he stayed on as a post-doc for a few years before joining GSD/CIRES as a research scientist in August 2015.

In July 2017, Guoqing joined the Data Assimilation task of the DTC. His role is to provide community user support for NOAA operational data assimilation system - Global Statistical Interpolation (GSI) and Ensemble Kalman Filter (EnKF) - and to conduct testing and evaluation of emerging data assimilation techniques. He says the best thing about his job is being well-connected with the data assimilation community and moving the latest research results into operations to make forecasts better.

Colorado’s beautiful mountain views, amazing weather and clouds, and outdoor activities inspired Guoqing to lose more than 30 pounds. He stays healthy by skiing, running, hiking, watching NBA games, and playing with his 10-year old son who likes many of the same things -- reading too. The most important thing he has learned is to take notes wherever possible, just as a Chinese Proverb says “the palest ink is better than the best memory.”

Guoqing Ge near mountain stream

Grant Firl

Spring 2018

The long and winding path to becoming an atmospheric scientist began at a young age for Grant, like many atmospheric scientists. He split his childhood years between watching occasional storms develop over the Sandia Mountains of Albuquerque, NM and the frequent passing of MCSs (Mesoscale Convective Systems) and derechos over the forested hills of southwest Missouri.

Grant credits his interest in science and math to a string of inspirational teachers from elementary school and onward, but his focus on meteorology was born of a shared interest in the discipline with his dad who obtained a B.S. in meteorology in the late 1970s. In college, his interests shifted from severe weather to atmospheric modeling and he majored in mathematics and minored in computer science in preparation for graduate studies. He obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in atmospheric science under David Randall's tutelage at Colorado State University, primarily developing parameterizations for the convective planetary boundary layer using advanced techniques for predicting subgrid-scale variability.

After a postdoc appointment for studying machine-learning algorithms for improving planetary boundary layer parameterization methods, Grant was hired as a Project Scientist I at NCAR to work on the Global Model Test Bed (GMTB) project in the fall of 2015. He now serves as the Node Activity Coordinator for this project. For the past two years, Grant has worked with the GMTB team to design and implement a Common Community Physics Package and an Interoperable Physics Driver. The team is also building a testing platform to experiment with promising physical parameterization advances and to provide this shared capability to the broader community. Grant has thoroughly enjoyed his time working in the DTC and claims that his favorite aspect of the job is the "problem solving" aspect and the opportunity to work with and learn from an array of like-minded, driven, and brilliant people.

Grant Firl

Grant married his wife, Julia, in 2009 and has a 5-year old son (Wesley) and 3-year old daughter (Evelyn) who keep him on his toes when he is out of the office. After a brief hiatus from frequent backpacking/hiking trips when his kids were very young, Grant is looking forward to returning to the mountains with regularity and sharing the unique landscape and wildlife with his family. Other hobbies closer to civilization include playing softball with the venerable "Hailraisers" team in Boulder and the "Cyclones" team in Fort Collins and tinkering with various woodworking and automotive repair projects.

Evan Kalina

Autumn 2017

Evan knew he wanted to be a meteorologist when he was five years old -- every type of thunderstorm that blew through Kendall, FL enamored him. When Joe Cione, a hurricane researcher moved in across the street, his future career was sealed.

After graduating in 2010 from Florida State University with a B.S. in meteorology, Evan moved to Boulder for graduate school at the University of Colorado, where he analyzed model simulations and radar data from supercell thunderstorms. Cione serendipitously moved to Boulder about the time Evan graduated with his Ph.D. and invited Evan to do a postdoc. In that role he used similar techniques to the ones he used to study supercells and applied them to hurricanes. During his postdoc, he also became interested in writing and managing code efficiently. Joining the DTC has been a great opportunity to use and refine those skills further.

Evan currently works for the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory Global Systems Division as the Node Activity Coordinator for the DTC Hurricane Task. His primary duty is to coordinate model development activities for the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast (HWRF) system. He makes sure that model developers have access to the latest version of the HWRF code that runs operationally at NCEP, and that they can work within the HWRF code repository. This coordination helps transition innovations that improve the model forecast into operations. "It's satisfying to be on the cutting edge of numerical weather prediction," says Evan, "and to contribute to an operational system that is essential for protecting lives and property from hazardous weather."

Evan enjoys the physical and mental challenges of the Colorado mountains and spends most of his spare time outdoors. He likes to run, bike ride, hike, and backcountry camp. He is slowly ticking off the Fourteeners – his favorites so far have been Longs, Pikes, and Crestone Needle. About a superpower he wishes he had: "The pack that I take hiking would be a lot lighter if I didn’t have to eat or drink…"

Evan's life highlights include seeing seven tornadoes while storm chasing in southeast Colorado the day he graduated with his Ph.D., flying through Hurricane Matthew on the NOAA P-3, and traveling to Iceland in the spring of 2015.

Man Zhang

Winter 2017

As a visiting scientist at the University of Maryland in 2005, Man Zhang learned of Colorado’s reputation of being a great place to live. When her husband had an opportunity to come to Colorado as a visiting Ph.D. student, they didn’t think twice about moving. They love Colorado and have been in the Boulder area for almost 10 years.

Man was a post-doc at CIRA in the ensemble data assimilation group. She applied the hybrid variational-ensemble data assimilation system (HVEDAS) developed at CIRA to the NOAA operational Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) modeling system to directly assimilate satellite observations in the tropical cyclone inner core. She also demonstrated the potential impacts of cloud-affected satellite radiances on the tropical cyclone inner-core region analyses and forecasts. “What I like most is learning new things,” Man says, “models are always evolving.”

Man joined NOAA/GSD/CIRES in July 2013 to support Nonhydrostatic Icosahedral Model (NIM) development. Since March 2016, Man has worked with the Global Model Test Bed (GMTB) to create software reference documentation on the Global Forecast System (GFS) physics suite (using Doxygen) to provide technical information to scientists and developers. She also works closely with physics developers at GMTB to modify the parameters that they want to experiment with in GFS-NOAA Earth Modeling System (NEMS). Recently, she has been running GFS-NEMS with the Grell-Freitas cumulus scheme. “It is interesting to think about the science behind tunable parameters,” she says.

Man is thankful her brother and his family, and her parents live close - all relocating to Colorado from the Hubei Province in Central China. Her 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son keep her busy with piano, dancing, and indoor climbing classes. They like road trips as a family and have explored most of national parks in the West and some in the East, with Utah’s Arches National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park being their favorites. Over the holidays they enjoyed time up in Steamboat to ski and relax in the hot springs.

Taken in Oct 2016, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinberg, TN

Jamie Wolff

Summer 2017

I grew up in Mound, MN, which is a western suburb of the Twin Cities. While most would consider Minnesota a cold and snowy state, I apparently wanted colder and snowier weather because I decided to head further north to Grand Forks, ND to attend the University of North Dakota (UND). I am an avid UND hockey fan and love heading to the games when they come out to play University of Denver or Colorado College in Colorado. Experiencing bitterly cold temperatures walking to class at UND certainly made me appreciate the amazing weather we have here in Colorado! I do have one lasting piece of home - I love shoveling snow and will choose to do so knowing that most of the time around here it will melt in a day or two!

I graduated from UND in the spring of 2000 and started working in the Research Applications Laboratory (RAL) at NCAR a few weeks later; I feel very fortunate to still be here 17 years later! I have been involved with a lot of projects in RAL over that time, including aviation weather, road weather, and numerical weather prediction (NWP). For each of those tasks I have generally been involved with statistics and performance assessment of algorithms or models. Currently, I conduct NWP testing and evaluation within the Regional Ensemble and Global Model Test Bed groups in the DTC. I have learned a lot over the years working with some very distinguished researchers at NCAR and NOAA.

I went to UND in pursuit of an atmospheric sciences degree and in addition came away with a future husband, Cory, who also works at NCAR as a project manager for the National Science Foundation aircraft. We have one daughter who keeps us busy attending volleyball and choir/orchestra events. We love to travel around our beautiful state and beyond. The travel experience I treasure the most to-date is spending time in Sydney, Australia and seeing the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play at the iconic Opera House. This is what inspired my 4th grader at the time to start playing a string instrument! In my free time I love to knit, having just finished my first sweater, and generally like to be outside hiking, jogging, skiing, dabbling in photography, or looking for agates to polish.

Jamie Wolff conquered Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert at 14,400 feet.

Chunhua Zhou

Spring 2016

Circumstances can make it hard to connect with people, and with snowstorms and parent-teacher conferences, catching up with Chunhua Zhou took a few tries. But meeting her and learning about her work in the DTC made the effort worthwhile.

Chunhua and her younger brother grew up in central China. While he still lives there and runs a small business, Chunhua went to the University of Hawaii in 2003, receiving her Ph.D. in Meteorology in 2009. Her thesis studies involved the dynamics of the tropical intraseasonal oscillation and its interaction with the synoptic variability. Before joining the DTC, she worked as a postdoc producing daily numerical weather predictions for Hawaii using the WRF model.

Chunhua has kept quite busy since moving the DTC, working in the Data Assimilation team under Hui Shao on GSI testing and evaluation (TNE) and also community supports. Besides GSI, she has also worked on other data assimilation systems such as WRFDA. As GSI evolved from 3DVAR, to 3D ensemble-variational GSI hybrid, to the 4D ensemble-variational hybrid method, Chunhua’s efforts also shifted from GSI 3DVAR for regional application, to 3D GSI hybrid for hurricane forecasts, to the testing and evaluation of the current new capability of 4D GSI hybrid. She is also working with Josh Hacker on cloudy radiance data assimilation studies.

Chunhua enjoys living in Colorado with her husband Shenghong – a civil engineer working in Denver – and her 9-year-old daughter Sonya and 5-year-old son Jason. Asked about possibly returning to China some day, Chunhua says only for visits, as she would like to stay where she is and keep doing the work she’s doing for some time to come. So you might see her out hiking the trails in the area with her family, if there are no snowstorms or school activities, at least.

Michelle Harrold

Winter 2016

Growing up in Chicago showed Michelle Harrold how to be an optimist. That happens while you wait for your favorite Cubs to finally win a World Series.

After completing her B.S. in Meteorology from Valparaiso, Michelle moved to Colorado State University for graduate work. She received her M.S. in Atmospheric Science in 2009. By the winter of 2010 she was working as a mesoscale modeler at UCAR. This year Michelle added to her tasks, making time to help with the Global Modeling Test Bed (GMTB).

In her spare time, Michelle loves to be outdoors, including hiking and camping, and skiing, although the latter caused a torn rotator cuff in her first year on the slopes. Michelle says she’d happily join the DTC skydiving club, should it ever start.

As if her DTC duties and active life away from work weren’t keeping Michelle busy enough, she was married in August and purchased a house this fall. And as a dog lover, she’s hoping to add a furry friend to the mix soon as well. Let’s hope Michelle’s active schedule needs to be interrupted next Fall while she roots for her hometown Cubs in the playoffs.

Hongli Jiang

Summer 2016

I liked how Hongli Jiang explained “scale-aware” physics parameterizations using her office and a printer as an example. She has always been excited about physics and atmospheric sciences, and wanted to make sure I understood the concept. If you have a large grid box the size of your office, the size of your printer is insignificant in that space. If the grid box is the size of your desk, the size of the printer now impacts that space, and you need to include the printer in your description of your desk. Hongli is from Tianjin, a large port city near Beijing.

Hongli has been a CIRA Research Scientist for 21 years. After working in the ESRL/Chemical Sciences Division with aerosol and cloud modeling, she wanted to change her focus to she has work with the real-time cloud-scale modeling on 0-3 hour time scales. Now she is working with longer time scales - out to 48 hours. Her role in the DTC is in the Global Modeling Testbed working with the NGGPS to test several suites of physics. Lately they have been test cases for 3 months in the winter and 3 months in the summer to use as a benchmark.

Away from the office, Hongli loves to be outdoors, and volunteers in Longmont’s “Clean-Up Green Up” campaign to make area parks, trails and open spaces more beautiful. She also likes to travel and experience the contrasts of different regions such as the Pacific Northwest rainforests compared with New York City - both are full of life, just different kinds. Indoors, she enjoys classical music and live productions--witnessing the Berlin Philharmonic in person was a dream-come-true.

Kathryn Newman

Autumn 2016

As a Junior Atmospheric Science major, at the University of North Dakota (UND), Kathryn Newman organized 25 weather labs for hundreds of aviation students that were required to take Meteorology (ATSC 110). The multi-tasking and organizational skills she developed come in handy as the DTC Hurricane Task Lead to oversee transitioning Hurricane Task research to EMC. “It’s challenging to keep track of all the moving parts in modeling research and getting them into operations,” she says, “But it is cool to be involved at this level--to know what goes into the models.” She also serves on the Model Evaluation Team and the Data Assimilation Team.

Kathryn has been with NCAR since 2009. She led the development of a functionally-similar operational environment for the Air Force Weather Agency to determine an appropriate initial configuration for their impending Gridpoint Statistical Information data assimilation for operations.. She is proud to have wrapped that project up and the results published.

She earned her B.S. and M.S. from UND. Her Master’s work was ground validating satellite products for atmospheric radiation. She also worked on MM5 and WRF particle (aerosol?) dispersion applications for the Army High Performance Computing Research Center.

Kathryn grew up Anoka, Minnesota where she remembers trying to get her Halloween costume over her snowsuit. In college, she braved the cold with other students to stand in line to get the best seats. UND posted signs: “Stand at your own risk,” with a thermometer nearby for bragging rights. She and her husband road-trip to Omaha, Colorado Springs, or even Minneapolis to catch college hockey games in their spare time.

Kathryn wanted to be a veterinarian when she was younger because she loved animals. Though life took her in a different direction, she likes to hike Chautauqua trails with Lucy, her beagle. She says she and her husband like to do typical “Colorado stuff;” ski, hike, and visit craft breweries. Avery Brewing Co. is currently at the top of her list.

Christina Holt

Summer 2016

A small town on the border of Alabama and Georgia produces an unusually high number of students that pursue careers in science. Ranburne, Alabama, population 300, is the hometown of Christina Holt. Christina credits Mr. Jason Cole, her high school physics teacher, for creating opportunities for his students to shine and pushing them to do their best. After high school, she went on to attend the University of South Alabama, and completed her graduate work at Texas A&M. Just a few days after defending her PhD in 2014, she began her career in modeling at ESRL/GSD.

Christina’s major role in the DTC has been to support the HWRF model. She loves to work on a team that pushes research advances into operations, while also pushing computational boundaries forward. “Weather gives immediate feedback,” she says, “so we can ultimately make the forecast better in actual operations in a matter of months.”  She works to keep lines of communications open with the end users at NCEP. Regular HWRF development meetings provide the opportunity to ask questions, learn about developers’ experiences and focus areas, and discuss the next steps.

Christina also serves as Chairperson of the CIRES Member’s Council; her goal is to build a strong connection between CIRES staff at DSRC and CIRES staff on campus.  She pushes herself to face her fears – from emceeing the CIRES Rendezvous for the first time in front of hundreds to people, to rock climbing - “Let’s try it!” Christina has made the most of living in Colorado by learning to ski, hike, and storm chase, and loves her dogs “Toots” (like “Tootsie Roll”) and “Roscoe.”

Her favorite book is “Isaac’s Storm,” about the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, but she also treasures her copy of “The Storm of the Century” by Al Roker about the same event. Her aunt and uncle chased down Mr. Roker on a recent national tour for an autographed copy – the only one he granted that day!

Jeff Beck

Summer 2015

Some people feel comfortable staying close to home, but Jeff Beck has been across the country and across the ocean, with more experience already than many people have in a lifetime.

Jeff received his B.S. in Meteorology from Penn State University, then moved on to Texas Tech to obtain his Master’s and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, completing his studies in 2009.

After a year working at a wind energy company in Austin, Texas, Jeff moved across the Atlantic, taking up a post-doctoral position at Meteo-France. “I knew some basic French at that point, and I thought it would be a good experience for me.”  The position lasted for three and a half years, when Jeff returned to the U.S. to work at NOAA’s Global Systems Division in September 2014.

Jeff quickly moved into duties with the Developmental Testbed Center. He is an integral part of the team that developed the NOAA Environmental Modeling System (NEMS) Nonhydrostatic Multiscale Model on the B-grid (NMMB) Tutorial that took place at the NCWPC in April 2015, taking on tasks ranging from managing the tutorial website and creating an NMMB User Guide, to testing the scripts and code for the tutorial’s practical session and helping with the practical on day 2 of the tutorial. Jeff is now the lead for the second NMMB tutorial coming in Spring 2016. Jeff also works on the North America Rapid Refresh Ensemble (NARRE) physics package, developing a stochastic suite that will over time outperform the current mixed-physics suite.

When he’s not busy with all his work tasks, Jeff enjoys the outdoors of Colorado, and spends time skiing, hiking and running. So if you happen to meet Jeff on the trails around the Foothills, be sure to say “Bonjour!”

Ming Hu

Winter 2015

Ming is one of several DTC scientists with cross-Pacific ties, with early roots in central China (near Xian) and school and work experience in Jiangsu (where his parents live), the Nanjing Institute of Meteorology, Beijing, and the University of Oklahoma, where he earned his PhD in 2005. Since 2007 he has been working at ESRL/GSD in Boulder. One of the go-to people for data assimilation work at the DTC and at GSD with the RAP/HRRR, he is called upon not only for development work on data assimilation products and applications, but also for community GSI support and for help at tutorials and workshops. These teaching experiences are in fact high on his list of favorite activities. Although he enjoys a good relationship with developers at EMC, he admits to feeling a bit daunted when he compares the scope of the effort at GSD with the 30 or so scientists working on GSI at EMC. He and his family are clearly settled here in Boulder (his wife also works at GSD), but he does seem a bit nostalgic when he talks about the Yellow Mountains, maybe his favorite spot in China.

Laurie Carson

Summer 2014

When Laurie says “Well, this isn’t exactly rocket science,” we’d be well-advised to listen; she actually was a rocket scientist. After her physics degree at Iowa State, she worked as a scientific programmer at the aerospace divisions of General Dynamics and Martin Marietta on orbital mechanics and other satellite-related projects. The ups and downs of the defense industry eventually began to wear on her, and in 1992 she came to Boulder to work at NCAR, gradually moving into NWP activities. Laurie joined the DTC as a software engineer in 2008, and since then has been a go-to contributor for several projects that involve the NEMS modeling system from EMC, in particular the NMMB dynamic core now in active development. A focus of these efforts has been to port, configure and test a variety of model configurations on different computing platforms. Along the way she has worked with Jamie Wolff on NAM testing on the NCAR Yellowstone computing system, with Isidora Jankov on NARRE (North American Rapid Refresh Ensemble) related testing on NOAA’s Zeus computing system, and with Greg Thompson on microphysics/radiation coupling, also on the Yellowstone system. She has also been working with DTC and EMC staff to develop some basic user guides for the NEMS community. Given these efforts, it’s not surprising that she would judge her most valuable and enjoyable tasks to be those that contribute to community support, and that involve interaction at a working level with EMC and DTC colleagues.

Perhaps the requirements of a detail-demanding job at DTC do carry over, for better or worse, into non-work time; this would help to explain the interest in quilting suggested by the picture!

Tim Brown

Winter 2014

If you still harbor a notion that software engineers live narrow lives, a few minutes with Tim will quickly persuade you otherwise. Between his present 3-year stint with DTC’s hurricane task and graduate school in Perth, Australia, Tim has worked in Toronto with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research; Australia with the Center for Water Research; Switzerland, the UK and Antarctica. He declines to speculate where his next career move might take him.

In Boulder, he has taken on a varied set of responsibilities, including teaching at recent DTC & EMC-sponsored Hurricane WRF tutorials and preparing numerical model documentation for HWRF. His most recent task, however, has been the collaboration with EMC in the conversion of the hurricane model scripts into Python, which he says will unify the operational and research communities thus enabling greater O2R and R2O. Outside of work, he greatly appreciates Colorado’s opportunities for backcountry skiing and bicycling. Perhaps that will help keep him in the DTC fold for a while!

Tara Jensen

Autumn 2014

An old management adage says that if you need some new task done NOW, ask someone who is already busy. Although she probably cringes to hear it, this applies well to Tara, with an exception: she would first offer to take it on. Her tireless approach to work follows pretty directly from a commitment to accept new challenges in new places. In practice, it has led to twists and turns along the way. After completing her Master’s degree at Colorado State University in aerosol/cloud interactions in marine stratus, her graduate work at Colorado State University was interrupted to act as a flight and support scientist in private industry, followed by taking part in every level (forecasting, modeling, data management, ground control, flight scientist and management) of weather modification field programs in the United Arab Emirates and Wyoming. Much of her field work was in airplanes (to which she credits having a strong stomach). Tara left NCAR briefly to participate in wind energy research in St. Paul, Minnesota but quickly returned to NCAR to join DTC with a focus on verification-related work (specifically with the MET package). She has been involved with extensive real-time and retrospective verification for the Hydrometeorological Testbed (HMT) and the Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT), most recently as the verification task lead. Her most enjoyable DTC experience, she says, has been teaching at workshops and tutorials, and her work on HWT verification, particularly on interpreting results, has been especially satisfying. Keeping up with Tara’s work life is easy, since much of the verification-related activity at DTC (MET tutorials, workshops, AMS meetings, and prediction exercises) has her fingerprint on it. Keeping track of her outside-of-work life is a different story. She continues her busy lifestyle by participating in her nine-year-old daughter’s school activities, sports and other activities, all of which somehow seem to take on a life of their own!

Ligia Bernardet

Summer 2013

When a DTC pioneers’ plaque is eventually installed, Ligia’s name will be on it. She was involved with DTC activities even before it formally existed, assessing the feasibility of high resolution ensemble systems with Steve Koch. At the moment she is principally working on tropical storm forecast models as lead of the DTC Hurricane Task. For insider information about the new HWRF release and its assessment, she is the first call to make.

Ligia’s interest in meteorology and numerical modeling was first developed at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, where as an undergraduate she helped provide rainfall forecasts for the local television station and the state environmental agency. As she tells it, this was a trial by fire certainly, but also an eye-opening experience with the operational side of meteorology that stuck with her, and she credits these forecasts as preventing many deaths and injuries in urban regions where landslides pose a very serious risk. After PhD studies at Colorado State University and a subsequent postdoc in Boulder, she returned to Brazil and the operational arena for a 2-year stint on a tiger team that got a numerical modeling system going in the National Weather Service. Since her return to Boulder in 2003, she has worked at the DTC and at the Global Systems Division of ESRL on several numerical model, data assimilation, and forecast evaluation projects, including projects to choose the dynamic core of the Rapid Refresh model and to improve the air-sea fluxes in Hurricane WRF.

Ligia remembers Pedro Silva Dias, one of her undergraduate professors, saying that the relationship between research and operations, via R2O, should be a glass door with an equal dose of O2R, not a ‘valley of death’ as it can sometimes seem. After these early experiences with operations and then several twists and turns along research paths, she is often amazed to have come nearly full circle at the DTC.

John Halley Gotway

Spring 2013

If you’ve submitted a question to the MET help desk, or attended a MET tutorial, there’s a very good chance that you already know John Halley Gotway. John joined NCAR’s Research Applications Laboratory (RAL) as a software developer in 2004 and has been contributing to the verification efforts within RAL and the DTC. John’s background is in mathematics.

He worked in Los Angeles at Northrop Grumman, before NCAR and the Rockies drew him to Colorado. His expertise is in numerical verification techniques. In particular, his fingerprint is on much of the internal workings of the MET code. He has also played several roles in applying MET to many testing and evaluation projects.

Outside of work, John’s children, Otis (7), Robin (4), and Cate (1) keep him very busy. One thing you may not know is that besides computing expertise, John contributes directly to critical RAL protein intake by providing fresh eggs from his “gentlemen’s farm” near Longmont. Next time you call or email him with a C++ question, ask him how his chickens are doing.

Hui Shao

Autumn 2013

In many ways, Hui is the quintessential DTC lead. Stationed at NCEP’s Environmental Modeling Center but spending several weeks a year in Boulder, she lives R2O (data assimilation variety) day in and day out. Besides the frequent commutes, she is a long-distance veteran in another way, with undergraduate and masters’ level education in China, a PhD at Florida State, and now her dual appointment of sorts in DC and Boulder. There was some chance at Nanjing University that she would follow a different career: space science was her first choice but the availability of meteorology courses led her in that direction. She credits two events during her studies as important points in her career. A DA seminar in Nanjing impressed her with the ‘forward/backward’ mathematical beauty of adjoint formulations, and during her first year in Tallahassee regular meetings with a professor helped to bring out the ‘bigger picture’ of her dynamic meteorology courses.

At EMC and the DTC, Hui is most proud of helping to form a stronger and closer partnership between these two centers and creating a new pathway between operations and research communities. The collaboration between two centers has now been expanded beyond just data assimilation. Her vision of DA needs and requirements include a strong sense that better ways to handle extremes are needed, and she is a firm believer that effective DA can’t be just about data but must have a physical grounding as well. If anyone is well-placed to bring that vision into the R2O arena, it would be Hui.

Tracy Hertneky


Tracy Hertneky "floats through the air with the greatest of ease" -- or does she? This daring young woman flying in an aerial silk (one of her many hobbies is being an aerialist - like in the Cirque du Soleil)-- doesn’t actually like to fly and requests the superpower to be able to teleport. She dreams of visiting places from New Zealand to Belgium (loves the beer) and the Summer Olympics! Plus, the ability to teleport would certainly be more efficient for travel and help in her role as a new mom to Juliet who was born in January “and has the best laugh ever!”

This Colorado native always wanted to become a civil engineer, just like her grandpa. While Tracy was NOT inspired by the tornado warning that forced her to grab her dog and guinea pig to hide in the bathroom, she WAS fascinated by the weather. She realized it was a career option when she got older and earned a B.S. in Meteorology with a math minor from Metropolitan State College of Denver in 2012 and M.S. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2014.

Tracy first started at NCAR as a part-time student assistant working with radar data in 2008. Now her time is split between several (mainly) DTC projects that provide unique learning experiences and allow her to think a little differently. More than half her time is spent on Numerical Weather Prediction testing and evaluation applications such as with the Model Evaluation for Research Innovation Transition (MERIT) project, which focuses on creating a testing framework that can be used by developers and the research community to assess and improve upon model deficiencies, with the ultimate goal of improving operational numerical weather prediction. The rest of her time is spent on release testing, documentation and user support for the Unified Post Processor (UPP). “Sometimes this leads to digging through code and getting messy,” she says.

Tracy’s proudest moments have been being an invited keynote speaker at the European radar conference in 2014 and holding her daughter for the first time. She and husband Andrew spend as much time with Juliet as possible  - she is growing way too fast! Tracy loves to hike, camp, backpack, kayak, snowboard, and play tennis when the weather permits. When she slows down, she likes to work on stained glass, sew, cook, crochet, read, and build towers so Juliet can knock them down.

Tracy Hertneky, NCAR