FTG 0009 - Monster Weather & Work Life Balance with Storm Chaser & Meteorology Professor Dr. Paul Markowski '96

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Guest Bio:

Dr. Paul Markowski ’96 is a Distinguished Professor of Meteorology in Penn State's Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, where he studies thunderstorms and their attendant hazards, particularly tornadoes, using state-of-the-art observations and computer simulations. He has been at Penn State since graduating from the University of Oklahoma with his Ph.D. in 2000. Prior to that, he earned his BS in Meteorology with Honors from Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in 1996. You can find him at https://sites.psu.edu/pmarkowski/.

Episode Specifics:

In this episode, hear insights from Paul on:

· Turning childhood fascinations into an academic and professional career

· Leveraging travel-based research opportunities as a Scholar and tips for these experiences

· How to decide that graduate school in STEM is for you

· Student leadership roles in groups like the Campus Weather Service and the Astronomy Club and how these can help your career years down the road by saying “yes” to opportunities when they present themselves

· Factors to consider in choosing a graduate school

· His thoughts on “Twister” and understanding science in Hollywood films and science-focused documentaries

· Making career decisions as a graduating PhD student & the difference between graduate and professional degree timelines

· The responsibilities of STEM faculty at an R1 – teaching, research, and service and what those mean

· The differences between teaching undergraduates and grad students

· The importance of being scientifically literate

· Joining your undergraduate department as a faculty member

· The importance of self-care and knowing your “trigger point” for when you’ve taken on too much

· Transitioning from youthful activities to life-long activities

· Becoming an outside expert in your field (NFL fans, you’ll appreciate this story!) – and the power of the Penn State network

· Working your way up to serve as the editor of an academic journal

· Making new discoveries in meteorology & thunderstorm science by building off the very basics

· Small failures and small course corrections and being willing to ask for help

· How to handle extreme weather events & the difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning

· The importance of utilizing professor office hours

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Credits & Notes:

This content is available in text form here.

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer).

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer.

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License.

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

Greeting scholars and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast of the Shire Honors College at Penn State. Following the gone takes you inside conversations with our scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career in life advice and it spanned your professional network. You can hear the true bread of how stollar alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rind the gone and graduated with honors, and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Shawan Doheen, class of two thousand and eleven, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. Dr Palmer Cowsti, class of one thousand nine hundred and ninety six, is a distinguished professor of meteorology and Penn State's Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, where he studies thunderstorms and their tendant hazards, particularly focusing on tornadoes, using state of the art observations and computer simulations. He has been at Penn state since graduating from the University of Oklahoma with this Ph d in Two thousand prior to that, he earned his BS and meteorology with honors from Penn State's College for Earth, minroal sciences in nine hundred and ninety six. In this episode, Paul Talks About Turning Childhood fascinations into an academic and professional career, leveraging travel based research opportunities as a scholar and tips for these experiences how to decide the graduate school and stem is for you. He goes on to talk about student leadership roles and groups like the campus weather service in the astronomy club and how these can help your career years down the road by saying Yes to opportunities and they present themselves. He also talks about factors to consider and choosing a graduate school and its thoughts on twister and understanding science and Hollywood films and science focus documentaries. He talks about making crew decisions as a graduating PhD student and the difference between graduate and professional degree timelines. He shares the responsibilities of stem faculty in our one teaching, research and service, and what those mean and the differences between teaching undergraduates and Grad students. He also dives in on the importance of being scientifically literate and shares what it's like joining your undergraduate department as a faculty member. Paul transitions to talking about Selfcare and knowing your trigger point for when you've taken on too much and transitioning from youth though activities to lifelong activities. He also shares what it's like becoming an outside expert in your field, and if you're a fan of the NFL, you'll appreciate the story and the power of the Penn state network. He rops up by talking about working your way up to serve as the editor of an academic journal, making new discoveries and meteorology and thunderstorm science by building off the very basics and how small failures and small course trections and being willing to ask for help or critical he closes out by sharing how to handle extreame weather events, in the difference between a Tornado Watch and a tornado warning, in the importance of utilizing professor office hours. Now we'll dive into a very in depth conversation with Dr Palmer Caskie, following the Gong. Paul, thank you so much for joining me today on the show. I want to go back to the very beginning with you and asked what drew you to the disciplines of Meteorology and atmospheric science, that brought you to what was then the university scholars program at Penn State. I good morning, Sean. Thanks for Heaven me on here. So, in a word, tornadoes, and I could even tell you which day and hour specifically. So I was a ten year old kid at the time. We had just done the weather unit and my fifth grade class and, low and behold, the atmosphere struck while the iron was hot, so to speak. This was may thirty fire one thousand nine hundred and eighty five. It was a Friday evening and many people listening probably know exactly what happened that night, for their parents would at least. This was tornado outbreak in...

...western Pennsylvania. In the span of a few hours there were as many people killed by tornadoes in Pennsylvania's have been killed in the previous half century. So this was a high end event, not even just by Pennsylvania standards, by Pennsylvania standards, it was unprecedented and it has been since unequaled. But even from a national standpoint, this was a huge event and that was that was it for me. I think the next morning, reading about these tornadoes, I thought, wow, this is tragic, but it was also kind of fascinating that this could happen naturally, that the atmosphere is capable of such violence. And and I was always kind of into science. Before that I was into dinosaurs and astronomy. I mean those are the big three things, right, dinosaurs, astronomy, weather for kids. And Yeah, one book led to another and another and another, and eventually came to penn state and to I confess, I actually didn't know about the university scholars program as it was known back then. I knew meteorology was something Penn State had, but I think I was introduced to the scholars program through maybe just a brochure. And why it was mailed to me, I don't know. Maybe it was a an sat score, PSA t score, something like that. Anyway, I got this thing in the mail and I thought Oh, this is interesting and came up here on a visit and yeah, the rest is history. I applied, got lucky. Not Sure I could get in nowadays. But the stars lined up, I got in and here I so you get to campus from western Pennsylvania and obviously you're taking yearlogy classes that you know you're now teaching, but I'm curious on what kind of pre professional or out of the class opportunities you were able to take advantage of to put your in class learning into practice while you were still a student. Yeah, so just a quick clarification. I actually didn't grow up in Western PA. I grew up in the Harrisburg area mostly, but we were close enough to the western Pennsylvania tornadoes that it was certainly a headline making event even where I grew up anyway. Yeah, there are a lot of experiences long the way, but I think the most important was between the summer of my junior year in the summer of my senior year I did a summer research experiences for undergraduates program. These are called a re use. They're sponsored by the National Science Foundation and I did one out in Oklahoma. So my whole life, going back to this early childhood event, involved tornadoes. My whole life I thought tornadoes are really interesting. In here. Now, finally, in is a rising senior at Penn state I finally got to go out to tornado alley and maybe hands on's not the right work because you don't put your hands on the Tourny, but this was hands on Tornado Science and I thought wow, I didn't even know people could make a living doing this what we're can you tell us a little bit about how what that summer was like and any tips that you have for students who are going off to a new place for a research opportunity or an internship? Yeah, so, probably the thing I took from that experience was that go at least in in science and research, you kind of have a log leash. It is. Before that, my summer jobs involved working at an insurance company, working at a library, and you're you know, you've got pretty...

...strong guard rails, tasks, everything's managed, and then you go to science and it's totally open ended. It's like well, figure this out, and some people actually aren't very comfortable with that. It's not for everyone, but if you're somebody who actually is okay with a little fuzziness where maybe you don't even know what exactly what the question is that's being asked, you certainly not sure of what the answer is and you're just told to hey, here's a sandbox. Once you go digging around and exploring, if you're okay with that and you like the fact that you're not going to have a boss micromanaging every minute of your day and you don't even have to wear suit and tie to work. That was what I took home from that experiences like wow, more of this and but if I want that for my life, for career, I knew then that men I had to go to graduate school. That that's what really put me on the graduate school trajectory after leaving by my honors college days. Now, before we get to your Grad school experience, I know in our pre questionnaire for you you mentioned that you were involved in the campus weather service and helped lead that as a student. Can you talk about that experience? Yeah, so campus weather service, it's an entirely student run weather forecasting operation. I was involved with that from day one at Penn State and eventually became the president of that organization. Also was, as a Sidebar, was interested in there. It was involved in the astronomy club. In fact, became president of that club as well. So it's kind of a funny thing. Most people on the astronomy major actually don't know the night sky where the constellations are, which is one reason why I kind of eventually migrated from astronomy to whether because this I learned more about astronomy. I learned that putting your eye to the eyepiece to look through a telescope, that was really kind of the astronomy done last century. That wasn't really where modern astronomy was going and I was more interested in looking at the night sky being outside. Yeah, I was involved a lot in a couple of those organizations, Astronomy Club, a campus weather service, and it was a lot of extra work, honestly, especially in leadership positions and those clubs. My personality type is probably not one and they're probably some people that can relate to this. It's probably not one that naturally seeks to go take charge and lead the organization, but I think most people probably would say I'm a pretty organized person, maybe to a fault. They look at my desk and not like the stereotypical professor that's just got a sloppy office with papers and book stack. Tie my I'm kind of a neat freak, but but so sorry, that was probably more information that you needed. But go circling back to this leadership thing. I'm not somebody who, I think, is naturally inclined to say, Oh, I want to be president of this organization someday, but it's I think sometimes what happens is people look around they're like, well, let's smart Cowsky Guy. At least he's organized. Let's let's let's go to him and see if he wants to run this thing, because think, you know, we just we want somebody to make sure the ship stays on course. And if somebody reaches out to me and says, Hey, can you, can you serve in this capacity, I kind of view it is all right, well, this is organization has been good to me, I'll give a little back and sure I can step in and serf and and that's kind of how I end up in some of these leadership rolls. Yeah, it was a lot of work. It was it was rewarding at the end. I mean maybe that sounds...

...a little cliched. Was a lot to balance. I do think that those experiences that you know, nobody I didn't have to do them, but I said yes to them. I do think they paid off in ways that I could not have foreseen at the time, and I think that happens a lot of times. It's kind of I tend to are on saying yes two things when people come asking. I mean sometimes you can go out of your way to look for things, but sometimes they just kind of come to you. You can't really push it too much, but you've got to be ready to say yes and take a chance when it lands in your lap, because there might be a payoff years down the road that you could not possibly have foreseen. Do you have any examples of that that might come to mind? Yeah, so one example was when I first moved to Oklahoma, there was a sign hanging by the elevator I did I hardly knew anybody. I mean I was literally just rolled in the town and signed by the elevator. It was professor Alan Shapiro was looking for somebody to sign up for a summer special topics in the fluid dynamics of vortices. I mean, come on, this this is to most people. They're like I need that, like I need a hole on my head. And I was like, well, I really know anyone and no one has signed up for this thing. And he emails me. He knows, he probably took advantage of me a bit, knowing I was the new guy in town was unlikely to to just to blow them off. He said, Hey, no one else is signed up for this, why don't you sign up for this? And I thought, Oh, you know, I really didn't want to be doing this. I you know, I wanted to come to Oklahoma to chase storms. I don't want to be studying fluid dynamics of vortices fretting some Fortran computer code and but I said yes, and no idea what I've got myself into. Three months later I have now a network relationship with Professor Shapiro that I would have had otherwise, and eventually the work I did spun off into a journal Article in one of the most prestigious journals in atmospheric science, and that was a journal article that it I don't know that I can say that single article got me hired it this job later on, but it certainly didn't hurt. It really showed my versatility. Five years later when I was applying for jobs, because because people saw me doing stuff in tornadoes that with radars or other instrumented vehicles, but then they saw this other thing on the side of this fluid dynamics project like, Oh wow, Markowski person kind of looks, first of all, I almost like a Swiss army knife and never would have happened. That really set that was so beneficial. Had this payoff five years and and honestly I probably paid off even after that when I was going up for ten years, many years later at Penn state. There's a payoff five hundred and ten, fifteen years later, because of something I did when I was twenty one years old. Just seeing the signed by the elevator. I think that's a really good point you just made, Paul, about being versatile and thing yes to kind of these seemingly random opportunities that jump up in front of you. Now you wrote this journal Article, but it was probably, you know, obviously was not the first academic piece that you wrote. I'm curious, but I'm also probably not going to be surprised if your thesis was written on tornadoes. Is that correct? Yeah, so, so my honors thesis was on tornadoes. Of...

...course that that I never I didn't publish that, but yeah, and graduate school my theces were on tornado or severe your thunderstorm related phenomena. You probably don't want to know all those gory details. Most people don't. Even my own family doesn't care. Well, maybe you could give us just the the quick two minute drill version of what you wrote about. Oh sure, so. Well, for the honors thesis, I say it was about Tornado outbreak in the Washington DC Baltimore Corridor in July, one thousand nine hundred and ninety four that. But that was kind of like show and tell then. That's probably why, you know, I never really occurred to me to publish this. It was more like it was very descriptive, not really blasting people with a revolutionary new idea about how Tornado's form, which is this is why we do field projects because typically the data sets we have that are just regularly available in a from the every day whether observing systems, those, those just aren't enough to actually do cutting edge science with, generally speaking. But then whis in Grad School? Yeah, it access to all these tools. We are collecting special data sets, we've got instruments on wheels doing simulations of storms that are pretty cutting edge and yeah, kind of the thirty second explanation of my my PhD thesis is found that the temperatures of down drafts in thunderstorms or quite very able, and it turns out that down drafts that are somewhat warm are more favorable for tornadoes than down drafts that are really, really cold. Definitely important to know for your area and even I think I understood that. So great job explaining at in lay people's terms. Really appreciate that. Now I'm assuming the opportunity to actually work out in the field and put these instruments to test. Is What drew you to Oklahoma for Grad School? That's exactly right. So Oklahoma checked off a lot of boxes for me at the time. Sometimes you pick graduate school for just purely geographical region reasons. People go to Colorado because they want to go skiing or hiking, and I chose Oklahoma because it was a warm, sunny place. And Yeah, to be honest, I growing up in the Northeast and enduring four years of walking across the Penn state campus through the cloudy I mean it's basically cloudy here from October to March some years, and we're in that six months span. Maybe there's ten to twenty percent of the days or sunny and fewer clear nights than that. Even, and you know I'm Oklahoma for me it was like, Oh, you know, this will be sunny, warmer, so I like that and the storm's aspect and oh I can go storm chasing. I can't really do that Pennsylvania, but the research experience that I did there as a rising senior Penn state when I was when I did a summer program in Oklahoma, that was for me a sneak preview of what life in Oklahoma would be like and what life is studying tornadoes would be like. And Yeah, I thought this is awesome. You know, their tools here that I'd have at my disposal that literally I won't I won't have anywhere else on earth. I think that was really good that you used your undergrad experience to travel there as a preview and say, Hey, I do want to come here. I've had some guests on the show where they've said I learned what I didn't want in an internship, but in your instance it sounds like you learned what you wanted and I want to just trying to go off to the side for just a second here.

I'm looking at the dates that you were in school and the movie twister came out right around that time. I'm curious what impact that film and presumably kind of the bee movie knockoffs that followed, had on the meteorology field at the time when you were, you know, right in the midst of getting your career up and running. Yeah, so twister that they were filming that when I was out in Oklahoma in the summer of ninety five. They were also filming it at ninety four and that came out I think may of ninety six. This was right when I graduated, in May Ninety six. I think twister came out it almost the same week. And this was, whether you like the movie or not. Actually like the movie, but it actually there was. There's a surge in undergraduate students and the years that came after that. That, of course, we can never know for sure whether there's a direct cause and effect, but certainly there's a correlation of a bump up in students interested in meteorology with with the release of that film. You mentioned the the be movie knockoffs. We're not going to mention names or Sharknado, but you know, I I honestly a lot of people I come up to me and they asked me you must you probably can't stand films like Sharknado or twister because they're so unrealistic. Honestly, yeah, they're unrealistic, they've got cheesy lines, they get all sorts of things scientifically wrong. I'm okay with that because I'd like to think most people, when they go to see a film at a movie theater, if they know it's from Hollywood, they don't expect it to be a science documentary. They're there to be entertained. So as long as the film's entertaining, I actually don't care that much about how scientifically accurate it is. And you might think this is you might take away my my office at and state for hearing a scientist think that confession. But what I actually do have a problem with is when shows on. We're not going to mention any specific network names, but there are certain channels that I think you could watch similer weather documentaries on and they're also not scientifically accurate. But the problem is is that when somebody watches a documentary about tornadoes on one of these channels that I won't name, they kind of assume that this has been filtered by experts, it's given been given somebody stamp of approval. I mean if it's kind of if you watched a music documentary on Music Television, MTV kind of assumed, well, you know, they must have this pretty much right because you know these are the music people. But I can say that there's a lot of stuff on cable channels that kind of suggest that they have some authority and they're not. They're not really that good either scientifically, and I think those are actually more damaging than films like twister Shark Nado, because when you watch it on a channel that seems that the by its name suggests they have expertise, they're kind of I think people expect that it's correct. So not sure what else to say about that. I'm a little disappointed in that. But what can you do now? You meant and how gray it can be in happy valley periodically, mostly starting we're recording in October. But yet you left Sunny Oklahoma and came back to Penn state and have been here since. What was it that drew you back to State College? So,...

...full confession, I I don't know that I was. I think if you look at my resume, it's a logical conclusion that okay starts at pen state, goes to Oklahoma boomerangs back to penn state. This guy had a long term strategic plan where he was going to go get tooled in Oklahoma and then circle back and take over the world in Penn State. And that was actually never part of my long term plan. I gotta say. I was just kind of you know, as an Undergrad you're looking forward to graduating and then toward late my undergrad days, I realize, Oh, research is a career possibility. I need to go to grand school. So I start grand school and I'm basically looking at well, I got to get a master's degree, and then I get toward the end of the master's degree and I'm like, AH, I should get a PhD. This is too much fun. So about one of these, you know, ten year olds that has circled PhD before they're out of fifth grade. Yeah, this is it's just one. For me was one step at a time, and so it's okay for people to be that way, I mean, unless you think I didn't turn out okay. And and so I got my PhD and as or as I was nearing the end of my PhD, I was like, Oh Gosh, I got to think about life after Ph it's very easy. As a PhD student you're so tunnel visioned on your work you just don't have any idea what's going on in the rest of the world. Jobs are not really at the front burner of what you're thinking about. You're just like, I got to come up with something big for this thesis. That's one of the challenges of Grad School. In stem fields is you're not done until you're done, and that could be five years, four years, six years, Gulf eight years, whereas if you go to law school or medical school, the first day of Medical School, First Day of law school, you can circle the calendar four years down the road or whatever years down the road and you know you're going to be a doctor or a lawyer when you get to that date. And in graduate school you're not done until you come up with something novel and significant. And everybody's a lot of its luck. Some of it's just working smartly, not necessarily working hard. I mean everybody's working hard, but some people just have a real knack for figuring out very quickly which avenue is likely to be a dead end so that they can make a quick course correction before wasting too much time on a dead end. So yeah, back to your original question. Sorry about the tangent. You asked about how I ended up back at Penn say. So, as I was nearing the end of the PhD finish line, it occurred to me I got to start looking for a job and at the time I had a girlfriend and then a fiance, and she was also from the Northeast and she was, you know, I was just supplied. Just wanted a job anywhere. It didn't really matter to me. I would have been happy to stay in the central us or even going farther west, farther from my origins in the mid Atlantic region. She, I think, really wanted to kind of head back toward the East. But the reality is I was applying for jobs everywhere and a long story short, I got a bite at Penn State, got an interview and the rest is history and we ended up back here. But yeah, it was not that I was necessarily gunning for Penn state or shooting for a return to happy but I mean I do love living here, don't get me wrong, but yeah, it it was kind of a late breaking development. Great insights on Grad School in stem. I like your point about the difference between, say, law and medicine versus kind of the open ended fields, I think in stammen sometimes in the humanities as well. So really good points there. So I...

...have two questions that are kind of interweaving. So tackled these as you will. First, as a faculty member, what all do you teach and research and in the same vein? What is it like being on faculty in the same department that you graduated with your bachelors from? Those are great questions. So teaching wise, in this stem fields and those departments typically, so there's an expectation that you're doing teaching and research. I mean the pence Penn States socalled our one university top tier research school. That means Penn states mission. Is both dissemination of knowledge. That would be the teaching part, but it's also creation of knowledge. That's the research part, and you got to be able to do both. That's your job as a faculty member in the stem field. So if you assuming you're you've got research grants and a group of graduate students involved in the trenches on your research projects. Typically you're teaching only two, two, sometimes three classes a year, so it's on average probably about one a semesters. I'd say one is semester's the median. Some people would do too if the research is winding down or if there's some other weird circumstance going out. But let's say the medians. About what which to people who don't know how the system works, they hear that you teach one class of semester and they think, oh my gosh, you know what. Okay, that's so easy. What are you doing? You just are you out just screwing around all day? I'm like, no, actually, I'm I'm doing a million other things. It's just that you're only you're only seeing me for that in the classroom, that one or three hours a week for a three credit class. Anyway, you asked which class as I teach. I've taught everything from the graduate level electives that are really narrow specialized, maybe five six people in the audience, to junior senior level electives, junior senior level required classes in the major meteor alogy. But then I've also taught Jenets and medio three, which is introductory meteor alogy. Medio five severe an unusual weather and frankly I enjoyed the Jen ed teaching by far the most, and I'm not just blowing smoke. They are by far the most enjoyable and I think I enjoy them so much because I know the stakes are actually a lot higher in those classes than in the graduate level esoteric meteorology five hundred level class. Reason being is that in a jen Ed class there's an audience of a hundred hunt I've got a hundred thirty right now medio five. Most of those students don't even want to be there, that they're they're in the class because they're looking for they have to take a GN class. It's for most of them it's one of their last one to maybe one of their last three experiences in science the rest of their lives. And when I say that, what I really could say is the rest of their voting lives. And right now there's so many problems worldwide that require science solutions and these problems require collaborations, international collaborations, but collaboration even domestically. Right now we have trouble collaborating even within our own country and pressing issues where science needs to be part of the policy discussion and we need people, we need voters to understand how science works.

And so the medio five class. Yeah, it severe and unusual weather. We talk about hurricanes at tours but frankly I view those is the carrots. Just to get people in the classroom. I bring them in there. We talked about tornadoes and hurricane sure, but we talked about science, how the sausages made. We tie talk about the Peer Review Process. People have no idea on the streets just how rigorous publication, the publication process is. Scientists can be means. Sometimes they're big go say they're ruthless questioners, are skeptical of everything, and the average person actually can see that as a coldness. It's often maybe why the bad guy in a lot of movies is the scientist. I mean there's a little bit of truth to that. And but I we teach. We talked about in this in these genet classes. I can talk to them about the scientific process, about how scientists don't always have it right. We don't claim to always have it right, but there's a process in science by which you turn over stones, you get to the truth, or is close to the truth as you can get, and it's all about refining our understanding. And if you if new data arrived that don't fit with your existing conceptual model, then you then you change your conceptual model. That's that's science and I think it's really important to tell this story. And also, I kind of think of myself as a science ambassador in these classes, not so much as science teacher. I'm there as an advocate for science and I don't want them to I want them to seeing me as a fair person. I want them to think I'm a smart person and thorough and careful and a good steward of public funds. I mean, all of them in the audience are paying for my science as taxpayers, and I tell them this and I want them to kind of see scientists as fair, reasonable people so that we get to the point where maybe twenty years out of school there's some pressing issue of the day, climate up. I'm sure he'll still be an issue, but they'll be other issues that require science and policy discussis. It'd be really nice if some of these students can be out there in the voting booth or talking to their friends and say something to themselves. Like you know, there was this medio five class I took back at Penn state many years ago. I didn't understand what stream wise vorticity was or why the winds are strongest in the eyewall the hurricane, and that's somewhere else. But you know that Markowski Guy, actually I don't even remember his name, but the the dude we had in the class. You know, he seemed like a fair reasonable person. You know, he wasn't arrogant. You know, we we should just do what the scientists tell us to do because they you know, they don't always get it right, but at least they know that it's a good starting point. And would it be great if we could get to that point in society, because we are not there now. So that's kind of how I view the the Jen Edmission, and that's a far bigger calling than just talking to five high level Grad students about the inner workings of fortext dynamics. In fact, you could argue that talking to the general population in a jened classes has a bigger impact on those five specialist than if I talk to the five specialist myself. What I mean by that is that the brightest minds in the country or in the world, they can't do anything if they don't have the support of the general population. So I kind of view myself as helping our Grad students more by not teaching our own grass students, but by teaching the Jen eds instead and the grads is they'll be fine. They can figure...

...stuff out of their arms. You also asked about what it was like being in a department where I got my Undergrad degree. So I got to confess it was weird starting out, especially in my interview in the first few years, because here I am now on the other side of the fence as colleagues of mine are people I had taken a class from for five years earlier. So it was a weird it was a little bit weird to be on a first name basis, hey bill, Hey Jenny, where it used to be Dr Evans or Dr Brune and but you get used to that pretty quickly because in Grad school you're also talking to people on a first name basis that who have a doctorate. So that wore off pretty quickly. And the other thing that helped his pen staates department so big in meteorology that probably only a third of the faculty that I was colleagues with I'd ever had for a class anyway. But yeah, now here we are two thousand and twenty one. I think almost everybody's retired. That I would have taken a class from. Maybe there's one or two faculty that are still around. So yeah, not a big deal. So you kind of alluded to this a little bit, but I'm curious on how you balance the teaching, the research, the service, and if you can illuminate your perspective on the waves and balance for scholars who maybe looking to go into academia themselves, learning how to balance they research and teaching and other stuff you'll get asked to do. We'll just call that loosely service. I can't say that I figured it out after all these years. It's something you're always kind of making adjustments and sometimes things get a little out of whack. It goat first, so you got to be really organized. But the other thing is those things can be like expanding foam that you used to fill cracks, where just takes up every every cubic millimeter of oxygen and if you if you're not careful, and I think for me selfcare is really important, fencing off time for exercise. It doesn't have to be one of these you know you burnt three thousand calories and an hour gigs. It's just walking can be enough and infect studies have shown that just pacing or walking actually stimulate. It's better thought. In other words, you're not doing yourself any favors by sitting in your chair all day. You may be have fooled yourself into thinking that you're being really productive by strapping yourself to the chair for ten hours a day. You're not. You're not. I people I know that have done that in from afar. I've I see them as constantly over estimating their productivity levels. There they're not as productive as they think they're being by strapping themselves into the chair all day. So I think my best idea is, whether it's teaching or research, don't come to be when I'm sitting in my office and Walker building on the Penn state campus. My best idea is almost always come to me when I'm out walking. We're exercising of some sort, sometimes running. Don't particularly love running, but I maybe you could say that I like pizza and beer more than I dislike running. So you know I have to do some running. But but yeah, bowing the grass out for walk, out for run. That's when I have my Aha moments, like, oh well, I should do this in claim. Sometimes I'll be out running with my phone I'll quickly like believe myself a voice memo or be punching something into sending myself a message or something. So I've had days where I set in my chair all day trying to debug a computer program and I think you know, and some people have probably had this experience. You think you're ten minutes away from chasing down the bug. Only ten more minutes,...

I got this. And then an hour goes by and you're like, oh no, no, I'm I'm just a minute away from this, and then another hour goes by and another and then your your wife calls and they're like, where the heck are you? You know, dinner surge, we got to get on. And then you're like, Dang it, all right, let me, I'll leave now, and I get up out of my chair and before I'm even halfway across the parking a lot of hits me. Oh Darn, I know exactly what went wrong with that computer code. All I had to do earlier in the day was get out of my seat and walk and something jarred, some something loose in my brain, and people study the brain or have been onto something about this for some time now. But I can't emphasize that enough. I'm not just saying this because it's a chic thing to say. Really, you gotta take care of yourself. Exercise or walk it out, get out. You're not doing your work any favors by by just staying in the office all day. So I don't that's you asked about balancing. That's kind of like balancing work with your with your life outside of work, in terms of balancing teaching, research and service within a work day or within your academic career. Yeah, that that's that's something people struggle with. Him mean what you can't if you're in a tenure line faculty position like I am, research is really important. I mean you can be a great teacher, but if you're asked to make cutting edge discoveries and you're just not carrying out the research, I think know the reality is no teaching is going to carry the weight at the end of the day. If you're a horrible teacher and you're but you're really good at research, I'd like to think that you better step up the teaching as well. That somebody's probably going to happy on the shoulder and say look, we know you're doing good research, but that can't just be everything. So you do have to be careful about paying attention to all of those things. What you can't have happened. You can't let service get completely out of hand. And some people really like doing the service stuff. And I've certainly said it's good to say yes to opportunities to come along, but there has to be some limit where if they start impacting your teaching or research, then then you just got it back off a little bit. And you also can't let them impact your your life outside of outside of work too much. I mean sometimes, I mean I'm really big on this. You got a fence off time for yourself for exercise, but you got to fence off, you got to air on the side of saying Yes to opportunities. And people often ask me, well, how do you know when you're overcommitted? You know, you're telling me. I should take advantage of all these things that come along. Say Yes to this, say yes today. Will isn't there a risk in saying yes to Aven and I think everybody we should have a trigger point that says, okay, now, that's enough. Something's gotta I gotta say no now, and for me that trigger point is the exercise thing. If I start missing workouts or if I if I'm not able to play golf as much as as I like, or if I start missing time with my kids or family out of then that's going to be a problem. That is a huge red flag. Don't go so at that point there's going to be a readjustment. But everybody's got to know what their own trigger point is. It could be basket weaving, it could be crochet. It's got to be something you like doing and once that stops happening you've got to recognize that, okay, this is not good. I because I really need, it's important to me to do that basket weaving or Crochet or whatever it is you do. And obviously you mentioned golf, which is a great hobby to pick up and one that clearly you're doing well in because, for those who are not familiar with some of our alumni programs, Dr...

Markowski actually won are an inaugural virtual golf championship tournament this past may on the solo track. So congrats on that victory, Paul. Thank you, I've actually forgotten about that. I'm sorry. Yeah, Golf. So golf is something I kind of took up lay in life. Maybe I was playing the wrong sports. It's a kid and I should have been in golf right from the from the get go. But yeah, I know I I was in soccer and Little League baseball as a little kid. That's what most little kids do, at least back when I grew up in the S. I was very those were the probably the most popular. I did youth basketball as well. Never really was into football that much but yes, I got older, baseball is actually a thing that I took a liking to and really exceled at. And but that one thing they didn't come out earlier in the interviews when I was looking at Penn State for meteorology, was actually looking at Penn state for baseball as well. So I had been recruited to be a pitcher on the baseball team at Penn State and kind of wondering about that cliffhanger. That didn't work out so well and and that's okay. I'm doing just fine where I'm at now. No regrets there. But when my baseball career wound down, I did continue baseball in summer collegiate leagues even through Graduate School Out in Oklahoma. Pitched in some leagues and even back here when I came back as a fact, I member was pitching in some what could be loosely referred to a semi professional baseball leagues. Eventually I was popping a sixteen ib you prof in a day like tick tacks. It was like what am I doing here? I'm thirty years old, wearing the silly cost to just throwing a ball game an hour from home. This just isn't so fun anymore. So I got off of that horse and it kind of messed around with golf before that, but wasn't very good. Once baseball was out of the picture, I went all in on golf. It just it's something about hitting balls with an object, whether it's about the baseball or golf club and a golf ball. You don't have to hit everyone perfectly, but every once in a while you hit one just right on the sweet spot and it hooks you. You're like wow, I just bade I can't believe I did that to the ball. How far it went? And you're hooked and yeah, here I am. You know, I've just playing more golf now that I would be willing to convest confess to publicly. Yeah, baseball skills have transferred pretty nicely to that and I was even good enough, I guess, to Eke out a this honors college tournament they had over the summer. Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. Shot and the sports. I think is a great segue and a tea up for you. Now. Sometimes, when you're as distinguished in your profession as you are, you can get tapped outside of the academic setting to put your expertise to bear in, quote unquote, the real world, and you have a really cool example of that. Can you share that here? So this was January, two thousand and fourteen. So I get a phone call on my pen state phone. We call our idea. It's as NFL. I'm like NFL, what is it? Is this National Fishing League? I didn't even answer the phone. Usually when people call me at work it's bad news. It's somebody with a crackpot idea. Hey want to collaborate with me and cover the world with liquid nitrogen to stop hurricanes? Or do you want a nuke tornado? So I don't answer the phone. Usually saw this. Didn't answer. We leave a message. I checked my voice mail. It's Steve Miller from the national football league. He was the chiefest security at the time and can you call me back. So I'm thinking, alright, some some former student of my enlisted me as a reference. He just wants to give me a quick call to find out if Jane Smith is going to...

...be a good employ so I called back and here what you wanted to talk about was super bowl forty eight, I think it was. This was the the outdoor super bowl at the meadow lands between the broncos and the SEAHAWKSS peyton manning against Russell Will Wilson. So I had an interview with Roger Goodell two days later and here they wanted basically a personal weather consultants for the couple of weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Course I said yes, and it was a heck of an experience. It was really a lot of funnies. Guys were really into. was probably most sophisticate audience I've ever dealt with when it comes to weather forecasting. They weren't interested in what's the wind going to be or what's the temperature going to be at game time, they wanted to know what the worst case scenario would be. So every day leading up in the two weeks leading up to the Super Ball, I present them with twenty to thirty different computer simulations and I'd say, well, here's what's probably going to happen, but there's this one outlier, one in twenty chance that eight inches of snowfall in the afternoon was for sewer bawl and they have for them that's a crisis. Not they can play the game. They were worried about having an empty stadium, about people not being able to get to the game. So yeah, they were just eating this stuff up. This is information that usually you're not presented with when you get your usual TV weather cast. Usually you're just getting kind of the most likely weather. Not you're not getting the whole distribution. You know what, what's the what's the one in twenty worst case outcome? Here? When it was all send done, and you know I got a decent paycheck out of this, I got a game ball from the sewer bowl, which we might it when it got shipped here. We play with it in the backyard. It was kind of cool. I mean, who gets to say they played backyard football with a game ball from the sewer ball that Pete Manning might have been holding a few days earlier? That was awesome. When this was all said done, I asked the NFL guy. My first contact there was this Steve Miller guy, chief of security, and I asked him why is you land on me to do this? You know there's at least a hundred people, maybe a thousand people in my field that could have done this. So Steve Miller is a penn state grat as it turns out. So he knew Penn State had a meteorlogy program. He also went to the American meter logical society website. At the time I was the chief editor of the Journal of weather and forecasting. So he saw my name there on the American metological society website on their mass set. He saw my name on Penn State's meteorology website. So he's just scanning names fish and he really is no idea who is looking for what he's looking he sees my name in two places, so he figures, Oh, let's give this guy a call. He calls me and the rest is history. Lightning struck. This wasn't going back to, you know, airing on the site is saying yes. The reason my name was on the American metological society website is because I said yes years earlier to a volunteer position serving as the editor of a journal. I got paid nothing, but I did it because I thought, well, this will be an interesting experience being the editor of this journal. How did I get to be the editor of the Journal? By saying Yes to a lot of request to review journal articles in the years before that, and some of those requests even went back to what I was a graduate student. No one pays you to do this. You're asked as a service. Hey, can you do a favor and take a look at this article and tell us what you think? And I could have said no, I could have said I'm too busy, I could have said this will do nothing at all to help me get a PhD, this will do nothing at all to get help me get a job at Penn state. But I said yes because I just figured well, so be a good experience. What's the worst that can happen? I waste a few hours and I get nothing out of it, but I said yes and had note. There's no way I could have foreseen the payoff years later that he year I'd be pinched. Me Having a conversation with Roger Goodell about the Super Bowl and the weather forecast. That is incredible and it sounds like everything worked out for you for the game.

I remember the weather actually turned out pretty nice for February in the northeast. Maybe not so much for peyton manning and the broncos and they had a bit of a rough night that night. But it all worked out for him two years later, so the sheriff could ride off into the sunset. Now we've talked a lot about your career. What would you say so far as your biggest success and your biggest learning moment and what you took out of both of those? Biggest success I might say, and I know people tend to remember the thing. They have a short term memory, so they there's probably whenever you ask historians about the most consequential thing, there's there's always a bias toward things that have happened more recently, maybe, but I really do think so. With that that potentially biased her. But I think in the last three years this is one of my biggest successes, and when I say my biggest is I'm really referring to my whole group and collaborators other faculty as well. But we managed to get the first ever three dimensional mapping of temperature in a thunderstore and you might be thinking, well, how hard can that be? May We have radars all over the place. We've been studying storms for over half a century. Yeah, we don't have temperature, though. So radar gives us the winds. And I'm in science, which means we're into predicting things, are understanding how they work. We understand how something works, we potentially can predict it better. Sometimes better understanding doesn't necessarily make it more predictable, but but understanding is a good a good start. And in fields like physics or atmospheric physics, to understand why things happen the way they do happen, you need to know the forces, Forces for Newton Second Law, forces related to acceleration. Acceleration is a change in velocity over some interval of time, and if you know how velocities changing in time now, you can predict future velocities because if you know the current velocity, you know how it's changing in time. Will now you know the future velocity. But you can only know why those winds are doing what they're doing, in other words how the tornado forms, if you know the forces. And the forces are tied to things like temperature, temperatures related to whether hot air rises are cold, Air Sinks. Temperature variations horizontally or relate. It's a pressure change is horizontally and pressure changes horizontally. That's what accelerates wind as well. In the horizontal plane. We've put people on the moon, we've got GPS constellations of satellites doing all these crazy things these days. But here on Earth we've never been able to measure temperature in a thunderstorm because a lot of the technologies we have don't penetrate rain and clouds very well. So we did something with very lightweight small sensors attached to balloons. So we just it was kind of like the film twister actually, but I actually more scientifically useful than what they did in twister, but kind of same idea. We flood the store with swarms of small probes that float th through the storm, but on small balloons. Bags failure or learning experience. Like to think I haven't had any single big failure that's had to lead to complete transformation on my thinking. I think those are pretty rare with with people. Usually what happens is every day they're really small failures and you make small course corrections. So every day I'm making course corrections by it's say. One fundamental theme is that kind of realizing that even though I was maybe one of the top five percent of my my class in high school, that as you climb up the ladder, there are a lot of darn smart people out there and most of us aren't going to be in that top five percent. The higher up we go in the more successful we go, at some point we get to a level where we're actually just average. Everybody's unequal. And you know, coming out of high school you think if you're in the honors program, you think you're some big shot potentially because you're probably one of the top people at your high school. And then you get to this shryer honors couge and all of a sudden you look around you're like wow,...

...like you might actually just be average. That's still pretty darn good. You might be below average even that's still pretty darn good. Or you might be one of the top students even as an Undergrad. And then you go to Grad School. Well, now everybody in Grad schools a smartest. You two or smarter. So yeah, that's it's hard to accept sometimes and at some point you're going to need help. You'RE gonna have to ask for help and maybe you hadn't had to ask for help before. Yeah, that's that's life. Really good point. I like your notion of kind of the small daily failures and learnings in the course corrections. Now, as a reward for those of you who are still listening, Paul, can you share any just kind of crazy weather stories that you've experienced and, knowing that we did actually have a tornado warning at university park during moving weekend, what students could do if they face such a situation again? Yeah, so, as a tornado chaser, I mean really am a scientist to says Tornados, but some if somebody asked me what I do, just a tornado chaser and they understand. It's a lot easier than trying to explain fluid dynamics to them. But yeah, I've seen crazy storms. The the hail is that the more actually crazier than the tornado stuff. So losing windshields to hail. Yet we've been in twenty, twenty five minutes Duration Baseball size hailstones which that that just completely destroys anything glass on the car, takes out headlights, takes outside mirrors. That it's it's pretty amazing to be inside of that. It's like you're getting just bombarded relentlessly by the atmosphere. Very loud. You can't even hear yourself screaming at other people in the car because it's so loud. What was the other thing you asked about? Sorry, so we had a tornado to warning during moving week here at University Park. What kind of advice would you have for students to be prepared for a variety of extreme weather? In Center pet central Pennsylvania, we tend to get kind of the mild version of everything. Blizzards, occasional earthquake, occasional tornado, friend into the hurricane. How should students prepare for those kind of situations? Yeah, so that's a great question about the tornado thing. So most dangerous tornado days or actually pretty well forecast these days and in fact there's usually a what's called a Tornado Watch issued when conditions at least are conducive to tornado formation. And if a watch is issued for your area, there's no immediate action item. You shouldn't go to the basement or anything like that, but it's an alert to tell you that okay, for the next few hours or however long the watch is an effect for just pay attention, you know, situational awareness. That's a term, I think that originates in the military. You if the sky suddenly gets black and the rains flying horizontally and you kind of remember, Oh, you know, we were under that Tornado Watch, then maybe it's time to take shelter or maybe turn the TV on, or maybe you're nowadays, we can push to your phone that there's a warning and that this is a recent development. In fact, this happened probably for the first time back in August when people were moving in it probably never had a tornado warning push to their phone before, so they're like, Whoa, what is this? It's just a joke. And at that point when the warnings issue, that means that the event is is already detected, or it's imminent or it's very there's very high likelihood now when it comes to tornado warnings. Tornadoes are such small events. Even if you're in a tornado warning, odds are that that one hundred meter wide vortex still probably won't hit your specific location, but it means that you should still do something because it's pretty darn close. It could hit you. You should definitely take action. But I think you should be thinking about this before the warnings issued, because if if you haven't been thinking about what you do it a tornado and then the warning comes out, you might only have seconds to act. It's too late at that point to start brainstorming a strategy. Really you...

...should. When that watch comes out, you should kind of start thinking. All right, well, there's no immediate action item yet, but but what would I do if a warning were to come out hours later? And I'd say if you're in a dorm or most buildings on the Penn state canvases are engineer buildings, a lot of girders concrete, you should be fine. Just don't be in your window. So if you're in an office with windows, get in the hallway where there's no windows. If you really want to feel extra protected, get down to a bottom floor or basement or interior bathroom where there's a lot of steel pipes in the walls that can reinforce the walls. But big buildings like that are going to fare pretty well in all but the most absolutely extreme tornadoes, like the top one in the tenzero type of that. If you're out in the open, though, like, let's say you're up at the IM fields. Tornado warn it comes out, that is not a good place to be, or a beaver stadium. That's that's going to require a whole nother podcast of what we'd have to do. Very complicated. Don't have time for that. But I'd say outdoors, hopefully you're taking shelter long before you'd get to the tornado warning part of the storm. So if you're out in the middle of a field, it's some level. We all have to kind of be responsible for ourselves and exercise and common says the sky is dark and you hear thunder and there's lightning the distance, you shouldn't be out there. So take shelter. The Tornado's not going to dip down out of the sky thirty minutes ahead of where the thunder and lightning would be. It's under lightning would be preceding that part of the storm would precede the tornado thread areas. So thunder lightning is a great warning, whether there's a tornado or not, to get the heck out of there. That's really helpful. So if you're still listening, I hope that you are rewarded for that with that advice. Now just our kind of wrap up parts here. Paul, are there any professor's friends or colleagues that you would like to give a shout out to hear, whether from your days as an Undergrad or your current time in the College of Earth the Mineral Sciences on faculty? Oh sure, that's a good question. One of the professors I still remember distinctly as professor bomb from the math department. I had of for math one hundred and forty. Just made that class really entertaining. That's all I'll say. I don't even he's probably retired by now. Is there any last piece of advice that you wanted to share with scholars on any of these topics that just hasn't organically come up in our conversation so far? Yeah, I think I would really recommend visiting faculty members during their office hours. A lot of people think office hours are only if you have a problem, you're stuck on something, you want help or you want to complain about an unfair test question. I mean you can use office hours for that purpose, of course, but you can go to office hours to have a conversation about the subject of that class or about maybe a career decision or early career decision you're trying to make you should I take this class or this class? Most faculty would be happy to have those conversations and maybe they all wouldn't feel a sweet if I had a student drop in during my office I mean I've already fenced off that time after you drop in and I wasn't expecting you. Well that then I might have to say, well, you know, I'm busy, you have to come back some of the time. But if you drop in during my fenced off office hour and just want to talk to me about something that goes beyond what we talked about in Class, oh my gosh, like I'll show you your off for an hour. And those are the things faculty members really remember. And when it comes time to ask you for letters a reference, or maybe you want to get hired into to someone's research group because you need to find a home, maybe to do your your honors thesis. You know there are a lot of good students that faculty have to choose from, but what really stand out our students who are asking a lot of questions, tough questions, to hang...

...around after class with follow up questions, where they drop in it office hours to ask tough questions or just to have a conversation about the course in general. So I faculty or probably more accessible than the average person might think. That is a great point and coming full circle from what you thought the NFL was calling you about in two thousand and fourteen. Great Advice. Get to know your faculty. We've heard it on other episodes, so we're really just driving the point home. Paul, if a scholar wanted to reach out to you to learn more or find out when your office hours are to come by, even if they're not in one of your classes, how can they connect with you? Emails a great way and you can track me down just going to the meteorology department website. Or you can just if you just Google Markowski and Tornado, you'll probably be able to find me, I suspect, and as our tradition here on, following the gone, if you were a flavor of Burkie creamery ice cream, which would you be? And, most importantly, as a scholar alum? Why? I looked at what they serve and I was thinking we need a new flavor. It would have to be tornado twist chocolate and vanilla soft serve. Yeah, I'm not sure the other ones work for me. Sorry. If there are any students in the Ledge of agricultural sciences, particularly in the Food Science Department, and you want to take that idea and run with it, Paul just gave you a really good idea to take back to the creamery. Dr Paul Mark Auski, thank you so much for all of your insights on whether on being in the stem fields in academia, on exercise and getting to know your faculty. Lots of good insights. Really appreciate you coming on the show today. Sure. Thank thanks again for having me. Was a pleasure and an honor to be invited to do this. Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show probably supports the Shure Honors College Emergency Fund Benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at rays dot PSU DOT edu, forward slash shreire. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin to say uptodate on news events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on following the gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at PSU DOT ETU. Until next time, please stay well and we are.

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Episodes (34)