Forty-three undergraduate meteorology students from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences attended the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) conference in Seattle, Washington in the last week of January. This was the largest group of student attendees from Penn State and represented one percent of the overall attendees at the conference. Students are members of the Penn State Branch of the AMS (PSUBAMS), Campus Weather Service, and the meteorology honors society.
The theme of the meeting was “Communicating Weather and Climate.” At the students ‘recent meeting back at University Park, they discussed the many lessons they learned. Secretary of the honors society, Chris Slocum stated, “I discovered that it’s important to consider the end-user when communicating scientifically correct forecasts, and also how difficult this can be when forecasts are more uncertain.” He was also surprised to learn how meteorological data informs US intelligence agencies on piracy threats.
Burkely Twiest was surprised to learn that Weather is the most popular Mobile App, but on average people spend only 30 seconds on it. “The whole job of communicating science with the public has to be done quickly,” she commented, and “you have to give them a context they understand.” Ryan Leddy learned that “trust and responsibility are key to effective climate communication.”
Many students commented that their job skills improved by attending the conference. Christine McEnrue and Simone Gliecher found networking to be awkward at first, but as a tag team they approached people and were pleased to find how easy it became. Jeremy Geiger was also amazed to find himself networking on an elevator with the Chief of the National Weather Service.
Information on jobs and graduate schools was helpful to many students. “The biggest thing I took away was not scientific,” stated Jesse Schwakoff. “Even if you think you know what you want to do, keep an open mind.” He discovered that he may want to join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps Officers. As he toured one of their ships, he found himself interested in learning more about their operations under the sea combining meteorology and oceanography. On the other hand, Mary Morris decided after talking to a number of graduate schools, that she’ll probably pursue a higher degree.
Hailey Mitchell announced she learned a new impressive word at the conference: magnetohydrodynamics. Even though she proudly pronounced it with ease, she said her most important lesson was, “The atmospheric science community as a whole is very supportive and encouraging of young scientists.”
This was the first time many students had been to Seattle, and Krista Gibbons made them all laugh when she said, “I learned that pictures lie–the Space Needle is actually smaller than I imagined!” Listening to this lively, dedicated group of Penn State meteorological students come away with so many perceptive observations about their field and their futures is proof of the value of this experience.