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February 10, 2009 | Last fall, Morris Weisman took a leave for three and a half months, trading his daily routine in ESSL/MMMM for the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). There, he taught a graduate-level course in atmospheric convection, served on the doctoral committees of two students, and collaborated with Albany faculty.
“Getting out on a sabbatical is always a good thing every once in a while,” Morris says. “It’s incredibly valuable to interact with different people and go through the process of teaching students—it gives you a fresh perspective and refocuses your own understanding of your science.”
UCAR’s Leaves of Absence Policy (6-11) states that the organization may “provide paid scientific leaves of absence to eligible employees to pursue research and professional development.” According to Human Resources, about two dozen individuals have taken advantage of this benefit over the past few years.
The visit to Albany was Morris’s third semester-long teaching leave, as he has a prior stint at Albany under his belt and another at the University of Washington. An expert in severe weather, he was able to fill a special niche at Albany, whose medium-sized atmospheric sciences department does not have a faculty member with expertise in convective storms. “It’s our responsibility as UCAR employees to contribute to the university programs, plus it’s just a wonderful experience,” Morris says. He adds that NCAR scientists are uniquely positioned to bring the latest research into classrooms years before it might otherwise appear in textbooks.
“It’s good to see that the scientific seeds of university-NCAR exchanges that were envisioned in the original NCAR charter are still bearing fine fruit many years later,” says Morris’s host Lance Bosart, a professor at Albany and MMM affiliate scientist.
NCAR covered Morris’s salary and benefits during his visit, while SUNY paid travel and living expenses—a standard practice throughout the community for a leave lasting less than six months. For a year-long sabbatical, the host or a grant typically covers the scientist’s salary after the first six months.
The Leaves of Absence Policy categorizes scientific leaves as either sabbaticals or collaborative leaves. A sabbatical, which normally lasts six months to one year, allows a scientist or engineer to pursue independent study or research at other institutions engaged in research activities related to UCAR’s objectives. A collaborative leave allows a scientist or engineer to work at the home institution of a colleague to pursue research related to UCAR objectives that cannot be met by bringing visitors to UCAR. Their duration varies depending on the nature of the activity.
ASP’s Faculty Fellowship Program (FFP) helps facilitate exchanges between NCAR and universities lasting 3−12 months by providing funding to cover travel, relocation, and living expenses associated with taking a leave. “It is a terrific opportunity for NCAR staff to get teaching experience and to develop research collaborations with students and university faculty,” says Maura Hagan, ASP director.
Last year’s FFP alums include Phil Rasch, who was with ESSL/CGD at the time and visited the University of Washington, and Susi Moser, who was with ISSE at the time and visited Clark University. In 2007, Markus Jochum (CGD) visited the University of Hawaii and Chin-Hoh Moeng (MMM) visited the University of California, Los Angeles.
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