Careers in Atmospheric Sciences

Alumni Profiles


Helen Amos BS 2009, Graduate Student, Harvard University

Rex Thompson BS 2009, Air Quality Consultant, DSG Solutions, LLC

David Weir BS 2008, Adviser, Kjeller Vindteknikk Consulting

Brian Garcia BS 2003, Meteorologist, National Weather Service

M.J. McDermott BS 2001, Meteorologist, Q13 Fox

Ken Westrick BS 1995, President and CEO, Westava SAS

Ed Rappaport BS 1979, Deputy Director, National Hurricane Center


Helen Amos, BS 2009

Graduate Student, Harvard University

After graduating with a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from UW, I started grad school at Harvard in the Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group. My research is focused on the biogeochemical cycling of mercury. Due to its toxicity and ubiquity in the environment, mercury is a global health concern. I'm currently investigating how the historical legacy of anthropogenic mercury emissions to the atmosphere contributes to present day contamination in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In my free time I enjoy running, reading, and exploring the New England coastline!

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Rex Thompson, BS 2009

Air Quality Consultant, DSG Solutions, LLC

Rex works with DSG Solutions, LLC in Seattle, Washington as an air quality consultant. He assists environmental managers at power plants and large industrial facilities across the country maintain compliance with the complicated and ever-changing state and federal air regulations. Rex's main interests involve air management and compliance matters related to Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (CEMS) and Data Acquisition and Handling Systems (DAHS), both of which are used to show compliance with air emissions monitoring, testing, and reporting requirements.

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David Weir, BS 2008

Adviser, Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate

After receiving my BSc from UW I moved to Norway with the goal of applying my background in the atmospheric sciences to the renewable energy industry. I worked for three and a half years with advanced research and consulting in the field of wind resource assessment for WindSim AS and Kjeller Vindteknikk AS. Through this work I was able to contribute to advances in in the methods of wind resource assessment, both through high-level consulting work and various interdisciplinary research projects. The wind industry is very much a niche within the renewable energy field and its rapid growth and development has been fueled by international knowledge-transfer. My work has taken me to many different countries across five continents, where I have consulted, collaborated, taught and most importantly continued to learn. As a testament to the pace in the renewable energy industry I can relate that at one point I found myself an American graduate student funded by the Norwegian government to study in the UK, where I took a MSc in Sustainable Energy Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. My masters thesis was a validation of a novel method for the coupling of mesoscale meteorological models to microscale CFD models for wind resource assessment.

Since the summer of 2012 I have worked as an adviser in the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate which is a governmental agency responsible for managing Norway's renewable energy resources. Here I am responsible for analyses of national wind power production as well as research and advising concerning Norwegian non-hydro renewables. I am also the Norwegian representative to the executive committee for IEA Wind, which is the highest-level international forum for wind energy research.

It has been a wild ride post-UW but I really have the atmospheric science program to thank for many of the opportunities I have had since graduating. The department has a well-deserved international reputation and this this exactly because of the quality of the education one receives there.

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Brian Garcia, BS 2003

Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM), National Weather Service

Brian has been promoted to from Senior Meteorologist to Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) with the National Weather Service in Monterey California, as of early 2016. In this capacity he is responsible for partnering with area Federal, State, and Local agencies to ensure they have weather data and an actionable interpretation of the data. This move from operational meteorologist to WCM has come with a large learning curve and significant amounts of travel. That said, this is likely the best position he has held in weather. It allows him to engage with the stakeholder community and learn firsthand the impacts of weather prediction and communication on their partner’s operation.

After graduating from the UW, he started his career in Houston Texas where he took a position with a private weather firm. While in Houston he devoured every opportunity that came his way, of which, his favorite was a six month deployment to Alaska where he was embedded directly with a high profile client. This, along with other opportunities, provided the necessary resume material to finally break into the National Weather Service. He began with the NWS as a marine forecaster at the Ocean Prediction Center in the DC area. After about a year there, he accepted a job back on the west coast in Eureka, CA as a general forecaster. In a little over a year, he was then promoted to Senior Meteorologist. As you can see, he has been from Seattle to Houston, to DC and out to Northern California. He has particularly enjoyed travel to Alaska, working on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, attending numerous workshops and conferences, and meeting great people from around the world. Please contact him if you have questions about careers in weather.

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M.J. McDermott, BS 2001

Morning Meteorologist, Q13 Fox

I graduated with a B.S. from the Atmospheric Sciences Department in 2001, with the goal of doing TV weather, or broadcast meteorology. While still a student in the program, I interned with Steve Pool at KOMO-TV. When I was a senior in the program, I started freelancing as an on-air meteorologist at Northwest Cable News. After a year there, I moved to Q13 FOX News. I have been at Q13 FOX for almost ten years now and am currently the morning meteorologist. I have earned several Emmy nominations for my work as a broadcast meteorologist. I’m also very proud to be the only woman and the only TV person to win the annual U.W. Atmospheric Sciences Department Spring Forecasting Competition!

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Ken Westrick, BS 1995

President and CEO, Westeva SAS

Kenneth Westrick is the President and CEO of Westeva SAS. Prior to this role Mr. Westrick served as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 3TIER for over 10 years, from January 2001 through January 2011. Propelled by his vision and under his leadership 3TIER grew from a small, boutique consultancy into a global leader in renewable energy information services. During his time at 3TIER Ken was responsible for the strategic direction of the company and much of the technology development, and his vision placed 3TIER squarely as an innovative force global renewable energy forecasting and assessment sector. Before founding 3TIER, Mr. Westrick earned both Bachelor and Masters degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington, with a focus on numerical weather prediction (NWP), remote sensing, and other weather, climate, and environmental forecasting technologies. Mr. Westrick is a regular spokesperson on a wide-range of renewable energy, smart grid, and weather & climate topics. His perspectives and thoughts have been featured at numerous industry events as well as in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Financial Times, Forbes, Time, The Washington Post, and a wide-range of renewable energy trade media. Ken is a board member for the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), an advisory board member for the Latin American Caribbean Council on Renewable Energy (LAC-CORE), and the Chairman of 3TIER’s Board.

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Ed Rappaport, BS 1979

Deputy Director, National Hurricane Center

Ed Rappaport became Deputy Director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in August 2000. His 35-year career in meteorology comprises positions in forecasting, research, administration, management, teaching and the media.

Dr. Rappaport is in his 25th year at NHC, where he began as a post-doctoral fellow for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. He has since worked in all of NHC’s organizational components--front office, Hurricane Specialist Unit (HSU), Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch, and Technology and Science Branch (TSB). He issued hurricane forecasts for nine years and was the TSB Branch Chief before becoming Deputy Director. As Deputy, Dr. Rappaport also serves as Acting Director about one third of the year.

Dr. Rappaport is the operational co-chair of the United States Weather Research Program Joint Hurricane Testbed Steering Committee and the operational lead for the NOAA Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. He chairs the Working Group for Hurricane and Winter Storm Operations and Research, facilitating agreements between federal agencies on annual updates to the National Hurricane Operations Plan.

He helps develop NHC’s long-term strategies and defines and coordinates much of the organization’s annual planning and day-to-day execution of work and budget. He provides hurricane update briefings to the media, emergency managers and other officials at all levels of government in this country and abroad.

Dr. Rappaport received his Ph.D. with an emphasis in Atmospheric Science from Texas Tech University. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington.

His numerous awards include the National Weather Service National Award for Leadership. He has received a Department of Commerce Bronze medal for applied research. He has shared in four Commerce Department Gold Medals—including as a forecaster during Hurricane Andrew, two NOAA Administrator's Awards for technical developments, and two Bronze Medals for project management.

Dr. Rappaport has had numerous papers published in professional journals and books. He has served on scientific panels, presented papers at technical conferences, and provided public talks.

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