April 17, 2013 | With budgets tight and the fiscal future cloudy, it’s a challenging time for any scientific leader. But the new director of UCP is someone who finds ample opportunity in the shifting landscape of research, education, and support.
Emily CoBabe-Ammann took the UCP reins on 15 April. She succeeds interim director Hanne Mauriello, who’s now chief of staff for UCAR president Tom Bogdan. An experienced manager and strategist in science and education programs, CoBabe-Ammann has tackled many roles in her career, including assistant professor, consultant, editor, manager, and principal investigator. It’s a background that intersects with many components of UCP.
“When I look at the elements of UCAR, I see a number of programs that are going to be able to take advantage of new opportunities while maintaining their core missions,” says Emily.
Over the past several years, Emily headed a consultancy for science education development and management. Her work included strategic support to such organizations as NASA, the Center for Science Education (University of California, Berkeley), and Southwest Research
Before launching her own business, Emily spent seven years leading communication and outreach for CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
Emily's interest in blending scientific approaches stemmed in part from her experience earning a doctorate in Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. Her adviser was the eminent paleontologist and prolific author Stephen Jay Gould.
“He was very much a classically trained intellectual, so I read 19th-century evolutionary biology texts in French,” she recalls. At the same time, she adds, “Stephen was intellectually very broad, so his ideas came from whatever he happened to be reading. I love taking ideas from lots of disciplines and seeing how they can be applied to whatever I’m working on at the moment.”
After postdoctoral positions at the University of Bristol and Indiana University, Emily spent five years in the geosciences department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, then found herself wanting something different. “Wearing a scientist’s coat was never a good fit,” she says. “I always liked teaching and project building and program building.”
Emily came to Boulder in 2000 with her husband—Caspar Ammann (RAL), whom she met at Amherst—just as she’d begun to shift toward science education and organizational development. Since then, Emily has established herself as an expert strategist in science and education initiatives, including laying the groundwork for CU’s bid for the National Solar Observatory, leading the development of NASA’s Lunar Science Education Vision, and building capacity at several STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education groups across the US.
Even with the ongoing budget uncertainties at hand, says Emily, this could be an auspicious time for the kind of work in which UCAR programs excel.
“We are sitting at a very interesting moment of opportunity,” says Emily. “There are many projects out there that require scientific support, communications and outreach, data and visualization support, project management support—really, all the things that UCP encompasses.”