World-Renowned Meteorology Program Combines Passion And Accomplishment

All across the East Coast people geared up for Winter Storm Jonas all thanks to winter weather advisories from meteorologists. When events like this take place, Penn State plays a major role. Our meteorology program is nationally renowned, and, at one point, it produced one in every four meteorologists in the United States.

The department falls under the school of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and is recognized for its expertise in meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric physics, and climate science.

Whatever the student’s interest, the Penn State meteorology program has something for everyone. Students produce new knowledge and applications in specialties ranging from tropical meteorology to severe storms, data assimilation, ecosystem biochemistry, weather forecasting, and climate prediction.

“A lot of meteorologists, myself included, are passionate about the weather from a really young age,” said Jeff Schmidt, a senior meteorology major. “When it was time for me to figure out where I wanted to go to school, I realized that the strength of Penn State’s program was unbeatable. It’s one of the top in the country.”

Post-graduation surveys indicate that graduates are highly sought after by employers — from 2011-2012, more than 85 percent of undergraduates found employment in their major field.

Since 1942, the department has granted more than 3000 Bachelor of Science degrees, 750 Master of Science degrees, and 230 Doctor of Philosophy degrees. This gives Penn State one of the largest alumni groups within Meteorology. Visiting any weather-related company, or attending any weather or climate meeting, all but guarantees meeting a fellow Penn State alumnus.

“We have a really strong alumni network and when you come from Penn State with a degree in Meteorology people know that you’re serious about it and that you know your stuff,” Schmidt said.

The program also claims many famous alumni, including meteorologist Hans Panofsky, who conducted fundamental work at Penn State from 1952-1982 that led to a new understanding of atmospheric turbulence, air pollution, ozone depletion, and planetary atmospheres. Panofsky was among the first to apply computer analysis to weather prediction.

Penn State meteorology students have a knack for winning awards in their field, too. For the fourth straight year, a team of students won first place in WxChallenge, a North American collegiate weather forecasting competition. Also a successful pair, Penn State meteorologists Jon Nese and Marisa Ferger won an Emmy award from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) last year. And the list goes on.

Meteorology students find a way to perfect their craft outside of the classroom with extracurricular activities, like the Penn State Weather Service. The group is made up of students dedicated to providing free weather forecasts and severe weather alerts to Pennsylvania radio stations, the student newspaper, and C-NET.

At Penn State, students get the chance to explore professional equipment that is used in meteorology studios across the country.

“In radar meteorology the doppler radar came to Penn State and we had the chance to use and operate it to collect data for our final project for the class. It was amazing,” said Matt Brothers, a senior majoring in weather risk management.

Not only do students learn about weather patterns and how to use advanced technology in the classroom, the partnership between meteorology and journalism provides students with hands-on experience broadcasting their weather forecasts through the Centre County Report.

“We have a really cool weather center on the sixth floor of the Walker building. We also have a radio booth and a TV studio,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt plans to enter the private sector and get a job with a business application of meteorology in an agriculture or insurance market. Schmidt, in an attempt to kill the stereotype that all meteorologists go into broadcasting, affirmed “Not all of us are going to be on TV!”

But at the end of the day, the thing that makes Penn State’s meteorology program great is the passion that comes from students who simply love the weather. “Penn State Meteorology is really fun because everyone loves what they’re doing and loves the weather,” said Ben Reppert, a senior in forecasting and communications.

From climate change to the next big snowstorm, Penn State meteorologists keep students in the know about the weather. Visit Penn State meteorology’s website to find out more about the program and stay up to date by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

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About the Author

Claire Going

Claire is a freshman broadcast journalism major and writer for Onward State. She enjoys reading, running, and a good cup of tea. She's from Emmaus, Pennsylvania and is a dual citizen. (Go Ireland!) You can contact her via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @claire_going.

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