November 30, 2011 | An old friend returns to UCAR/NCAR in early 2012. Tom Bogdan came to the organization nearly 30 years ago as a postdoctoral researcher in HAO. On January 9, he’ll take the helm as president of UCAR.
“It's a wonderful story that you can walk in the door as a postdoc at the bottom of the scientific ladder in 1983 and come back in 2012 as president,” Tom says. “It underscores the fact that at UCAR there are opportunities for everyone to achieve their goals.”
Tom replaces Rick Anthes, who is stepping down after 23 years.
“I was thrilled when I learned that I got the job,” Tom says. “It’s a tremendous honor and great opportunity. I’m incredibly excited about all the amazing things in front of me waiting to get done.”
Tom says that one of his first priorities and challenges will be addressing UCAR/NCAR’s budget situation. “We want to ensure that NSF feels we are their partner of choice for accomplishing goals as set by Congress and the administration,” he says.
He emphasizes that the atmospheric sciences provide an excellent return on investment for what they offer society. “So much of our business, economy, and national security hinges on having good decision support for dealing with weather and climate events as they unfold,” he says. “With a government that is looking carefully at all its investments, I believe that we come out looking really good. I see my role as looking outward from UCAR to make the cost-benefit statement very clear.”
Tom, who holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, is the first solar researcher to head UCAR since Walter Orr Roberts served as president from 1960 to 1973. He started his HAO career researching solar magnetic activity, working his way up to senior scientist. In 2001, he left for Washington, D.C., on a two-year rotation at NSF as program director for solar-terrestrial physics, an experience that he says gave him precious insight into the foundation’s inner workings. He returned to NCAR for a short stint as acting director of ASP, followed by serving as acting director of the former Societal-Environmental Research and Education Laboratory (SERE).
In 2006, he took the reins of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (part of the National Weather Service), where he gained experience in running an operational organization. “I’ve learned a lot about the culture of not just the NWS but also NOAA and other government agencies,” he says. “I think that those connections and insights on how Washington works will be helpful as we go ahead.”
Tom plans to break with tradition and maintain his office at either Foothills Lab or Center Green instead of the Fleischmann Building. His self-described management style is to delegate, provide resources, and then get out of the way. An INTJ on the Myers-Brigg spectrum, he prefers the big-picture approach. “I like to sit back and think about what’s possible and dream,” he says.
In addition to his talents as a scientist and administrator, Tom has a unique interest in history—particularly HAO’s. Over the years, he’s dug through the NCAR Archives and numerous boxes of papers that NCAR founder Walt Roberts left at CU’s Norlin Library, piecing together a history of HAO’s formative years. He’s given a number of presentations on the subject, including one at Boulder Public Library in 2000.
To relax from the stress of being UCAR president, Tom plans to rely on puppies. He and his wife, Barb, train service dogs for Canine Partners of the Rockies. The dogs, mostly labs and retrievers, assist people with mobility problems, particularly the wheelchair-bound. “We’re currently on our third puppy,” he says. “We get them at six weeks, get them socialized and acclimatized, and then at eight months they go off to advanced training.”
More about Tom:
"The archaeologist of HAO: Tom Bogdan digs into the early days" (Staff Notes, October 2000)
"Rotating scientists recall time at NSF" (Staff Notes, March 2005)