My coming of age coincided with the flourishing of two of the major progressive movements of the 20 th century - environmentalism and feminism - both of which stimulated my interest in atmospheric science. I wanted to help protect the environment, and I was determined not to be limited in my career choices by my gender. So as an undergraduate student I took courses in math, physical sciences, and any courses I could find related to environmental science. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I sought, but was not really qualified for, work related to air quality.
I was very lucky to land at the Meteorology Department at SJSU, where I could get a solid foundation in meteorology. I focused on boundary layer and air pollution meteorology and, for the first time, learned how to do original scientific research, under the tutelage of Prof. Robert Bornstein, my MS thesis advisor. Prof. Bornstein sets high standards for his students, and striving to meet them was great training for a career in atmospheric research. After finishing my M.S. at San Jose State University , I went to the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Belgium , where I continued to work on boundary layer issues and dispersion of pollutants. Later I shifted focus to climate studies at the University of Maryland , College Park , where I earned a Ph.D. in meteorology.
I've spent most of my career as a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Air Resources Laboratory in the Washington , DC area ( www.arl.noaa.gov ). My research addresses climate variability and change. My focus has been analysis of observations, and I have investigated long-term global temperature and humidity changes, upper-air observations and data quality issues, heat waves, and the tropopause. In a recent study, we examined meteorological measures of the width of the tropics and found that the tropical belt appears to have expanded over the last several decades. The cause(s) and mechanism(s) of this expansion are open research topics.
I've been privileged to contribute to the work of several national and international scientific committees and assessment teams, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), US Climate Change Science Program, the National Academies of Science, the U.N. Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. It was a huge thrill to be part of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of IPCC-contributing scientists awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change". The recognition that the science community has a critical role to play in laying a foundation for national and international environmental policymaking, and that sound, science-based environmental policy can contribute to world peace, goes a long way toward enhancing public understanding and appreciation of what we atmospheric scientists do every day.
In recent years, I've become active in the American Meteorological Society ( www.ametsoc.org ) in various capacities, including as a member of the AMS Council, the society's governing body. I've recently been involved with the AMS Green Meetings Committee, chaired by Prof. Eugene Cordero of SJSU, which is working to help AMS reduce the environmental impact of its meetings and other activities. I'd like to encourage students and colleagues to consider getting involved in AMS, and in other professional societies. They offer great opportunities for learning, networking, service, and making a personal contribution to the future of our profession.
It was a delight to attend the first annual SJSU Meteorology Department reunion at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society. It was wonderful to meet the current crop of students, and I was especially pleased to see so many young women in the group. I look forward to keeping in touch with SJSU at future events.