Several recent graduates have leveraged their education and experience into high-profile meteorology positions.

Amanda Leitz (’14 B.S. meteorology) landed a position with the COMET program at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, where she works to develop training modules for meteorological needs such as data assimilation for weather satellites, aviation meteorology, and tropical cyclone forecasting. “In order to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do, you need to explore your options,” Leitz said. “As an undergraduate, I had two internships at an aerospace engineering company plus one at WDBJ7 in Roanoke, and I volunteered at the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg. It was thanks to all those opportunities that I was able to understand better what I wanted to do with my degree.”

Trevor White, a business information technology graduate who earned a master’s in geography in 2016, is just down the road from Leitz at the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder. White, a Hokie Storm Chase veteran, earned a coveted position working with CSWR President Josh Wurman, who was often featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” series. As an associate scientist, White is involved in data analysis, writing computer code, and visualization of weather data. “CSWR is where I planned to work after 10 years or so,” he said. “Ideally, I’ll start and end my career there. This is the lifetime job I wanted. I can’t think of a better place I would want to work.”

Joining White as an associate scientist at CSWR is fellow Virginia Tech and Hokie Storm Chase alum Courtney Laughlin (’12 B.S. physics). Inspired by her studies and work under Dave Carroll, senior instructor in the geography department, Laughlin went on to earn a master’s in meteorology at Penn State.

According to Carroll, stories like these are what make the geography department so unique. “It’s a very student-centered department,” Carroll said. “We get a lot of people transferring in who have a technical focus to their studies but want more of a service component. Meteorology provides that because you can really see the benefit to society.”