This month, I am so excited to profile one of my friends, Ross Lazear, of the University at Albany. You will never meet a person who is more enthusiastic about his work than Ross, and that enthusiasm transfers right into the numerous students who he has taught over the years. I have had the great privilege of getting to know Ross both personally and professionally during his time at UAlbany, attending minor league baseball games, talking about weather at meetings and conferences, and most recently, taking some of his students as interns to learn about forensic meteorology. And with that introduction, I will let Ross tell you about himself in his own words!
Could you introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about where you’re from and how you got into meteorology?
I’m originally from Long Lake, Minnesota, in the Minneapolis metro area. I like to say that it’s growing up in Minnesota that piqued my interest in meteorology. I remember a couple storms in particular that had me glued to the Weather Channel—the first was our great Halloween blizzard in 1991, where we had nearly 30 inches of snow, and I was much more excited about the snow than I was to go trick-or-treating. Secondly, the following summer we experienced an incredible line of thunderstorms overnight that caused a lot of damage in the Twin Cities. Running to the basement in the middle of the night with the sound of tornado sirens definitely had a profound impact on me.
What is/are your current position(s)?
I’m an instructor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University at Albany, SUNY.
What is your work day like?
I teach courses on severe weather, weather forecasting, meteorological data, and data visualization. Other than teaching, I work with students on research projects, am involved with recruitment events, make daily weather forecasts for UAlbany (and when weather might affect classes or events), and am involved with various administrative roles in our undergraduate program. I also really enjoy taking time to chat with my students (sometimes distracting them from their own work!), and my excellent colleagues.
How did you get to your current position?
I received my Bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2005, and my Master’s also from Wisconsin in 2007. After a brief stint working with a Wisconsin professor on setting up climate models, I started working at UAlbany in my current position in May 2008.
What is the best thing about your job?
I love interacting with our fantastic students. It is so exciting and rewarding to see them grow—especially since I often have them in my freshman seminar, and it’s great to see the progress they’ve made by the time they graduate. I also simply enjoy getting to know our students; we’re fortunate to have such a bright, enthusiastic group here at UAlbany, and teaching them about the weather—a subject I love—makes my job incredibly rewarding.
What is one goal you are working towards right now?
While not necessary a goal, per se, I’m really looking forward to working with my first graduate student in a co-advisement role. We have a really unique project that combines meteorological observations with models to better understand how to forecast major weather events in complex terrain. It’s a challenging problem, but it should be a fun project to work on.
What are some things you do in your free time?
In the summer, I’m really into biking and swimming, and occasionally hiking (I love the natural beauty of this part of the country!). I also love music and film. Of course, running outside to watch exciting weather roll through Albany (and storm chasing) is a personal favorite.
If a kid walked up and asked for advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s OK to not know the answer to something; chances are that you’re not the only one (and even if you are, you should still ask!); if you don’t ask, then you won’t learn, and it shows an instructor or colleague that you’re interested!
What is the coolest experience you have had thus far in your career (life?)
I love being out in the elements, and chasing storms in the Plains is an amazing, awe-inspiring experience. I think I’m a very visual person, and watching huge, rotating storms develop with constantly changing light is incredible. It’s also neat to have first studied the physical processes that create rotating storms and tornadoes in the classroom, and then witness those processes in person.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
This is sort of advice that I’ve heard from atmospheric scientists quite a bit over the years. A lot of people in academia feel some form of impostor syndrome at some point in their studies or career—that is, a feeling that they really aren’t qualified or smart enough for work they’ve been chosen for. I took me a while to realize that nearly everyone feels this to some extent (myself *definitely* included)! This follows along with my answer to an earlier question; it’s OK to not to the answers, and OK to ask. Sometimes we feel like everyone else is an expert, and we’re not, but we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s really important to realize that.