Professor Emeritus, California State University, Los Angeles, Department of Geosciences & Environment
Education: Ph.D. in Geography (University of Manitoba), M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences (Colorado State University), B.A. in Meteorology (University of California, Los Angeles)
Describe your job. What are some of the most important tasks or duties for which you are responsible?
Besides teaching classes in physical geography, meteorology and climatology, I mentor graduate students in their research and Masters’ theses. I also write several letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs, graduate schools and research opportunities. I continue collaborating with other scientists on climate research and occasionally answer requests from media on environmental stories.
What attracted you to this career path?
I always liked math, and found that it could be applied in meteorology. At UCLA I interned at the National Weather Service as well as at air pollution consultants. While working at the L.A. County Air Pollution Control District, someone showed me information on “Jobs in Geography”, where you could teach weather courses at universities. I was hired by the University of Winnipeg in the Great White North teaching weather and later climatology and environmental courses. I enjoyed teaching, so went on to a Ph.D. in geography/climatology.
How has your education/background in geography prepared you for this position? Most of my education was in Atmospheric Sciences, so I had a lot of prep work to teach geography courses. I found my niche and passion in meteorology and climatology and have been studying them since.
What geographic skills and information do you use most often in your work? What general skills and information do you use most often?
I like to show satellite images in my classes and the latest climatic data, such as from NASA. So using remote sensing, weather maps and oceanic conditions (being on the coast), I use statistics and recent environmental data in my classes and research. Mostly, I’m looking at ENSO-Pacific Ocean Indices, weather maps and satellites and climate data to follow climate change. We also have field instruments so my classes can measure surface weather data in different land uses in urban settings.
Are there any skills or information you need for your work that you did not obtain through your academic training? If so, how/where did you obtain them?
I was fortunate to have summer employment at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA. There I collaborated with oceanography scientists and student interns on several climate-related projects. My boss there was a wonderful science communicator, so I learned a lot from him that carried into classrooms and media interviews.
Do you participate in hiring, screening, or training of new employees? If so, what qualities and/or skills do you look for?
I was just on two search committees for new hires. We looked for someone who would be a good instructor with our students, many of whom had English as a second language and were working while in school. We also looked for good mentors for these students, who could relate and encourage high achievement. Scholarships were also important where they could lead student research
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
You need to have a passion for your work and for helping students. That makes the hard work actually fun and something you look forward to doing. We have special students that work hard and often reach their goals. You need to be a good mentor and inspiration to your students. Your enthusiasm for your subjects will rub off.
What is the occupational outlook for career opportunities in your field/organization, esp. for geographers?
Our graduates have been fairly successful in finding employment in geography and related environmental fields. Having skills in computer programming, GIS and remote sensing training or certificates, statistics and the sciences are all helpful. Internships or summer help in companies or government agencies can often lead to more permanent employment.