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Home » Turning a fascination with thunderstorms into a career in severe weather and climate

Turning a fascination with thunderstorms into a career in severe weather and climate

Kimberly Hoogewind is a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) at the University of Oklahoma, working in affiliation with the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). In this role, she conducts research at the weather-climate interface as it relates to severe storms, and more specifically, she focuses on the predictability of severe weather activity in the subseasonal time frame (two weeks to two months).

What drew you to your current career or field?

I was bitten by the weather bug at a very young age; I was especially fascinated by thunderstorms and snowstorms. From elementary school onward, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded, “a meteorologist!” The event that really sealed the deal for pursuing my chosen career was the May 31, 1998 derecho that impacted my hometown just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan during my teenage years (when thunderstorm winds reached up to 130 mph). I specifically remember setting an alarm for 3 a.m., so I wouldn't miss the event!

What were some of the challenges you faced this year? Have you been able to adapt and if so, how?

It's been pretty challenging to separate work life from home life during the past year. I often joke that I'm living at work instead of working from home! I've been slowly learning to set boundaries for myself, such as only answering emails during work hours, and making sure I set time aside to pursue hobbies and physical activity. The latter have been especially important for mental health.

What experience or advice helps you when you’re faced with setbacks?

Use setbacks as a learning experience, and to always keep things in perspective! Many times, we are our own worst critics. It is important to recognize our own progress and achievements, even when we're not meeting our goals —especially those which are self-imposed. This has been especially important to remember during this past year.

Have any opportunities opened up by the change to virtual-only work, or any unexpected benefits from working from home?

My work wardrobe is definitely more comfortable nowadays!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love that I have the opportunity to blend my interests in severe storms and climate. It is especially exciting to help advance the science in this emerging area of research at the convective weather-climate interface.

What advice would you give to women who are starting out in their careers?

Don't underestimate yourself! I'd also advise to seek out a mentor who can support you, aid in navigating your early career, and help you learn to become a mentor yourself.

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