Getting to know Chris Davis

NCAR Associate Director for MMM

As part of a series of interviews with new leaders at NCAR/UCAR, Staff News recently chatted with Chris Davis, who now heads the Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Lab. We asked five questions to learn more about Chris, personally and professionally.

Staff News: Tell us a little about your background.

Chris: I grew up in Massachusetts, but surprisingly to many people, I don’t have the classic Boston accent. I wanted to be involved in science since high school. Then, as now, I found it fascinating to be immersed in the system being studied, the atmosphere. My interest in atmospheric science only increased when I found out how much hard science was behind trying to understand the atmosphere. It’s not just what you see watching the evening news and the weather report.

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Chris Davis (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

I attended the University of Massachusetts–Amherst for my undergraduate degree in physics. I went on to do my graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where I earned my Ph.D. in meteorology.

I started out as a postdoc in NCAR's Advanced Study Program for early career scientists in May of 1990. I became a scientist in 1992 and senior scientist in 2006. Five years ago, I was named director of ASP. I loved mentoring the young scientists. I think directing ASP is the best job to have in the organization because you have an excellent vantage point for the science across NCAR. You get to see what's new and what young people are interested in. Even more, I had a chance to help young scientists start their careers. On March 1 of this year, nearly 25 years after joining NCAR, I became the head of the MMM Lab.

Staff News: Do you have any hidden talents? What are they?

Chris: I coached baseball for a while when my kids were younger. I coached both my son and my daughter. They played on the same team for about three years — my daughter was the only female player on the team. Being a coach really helped me understand what I didn’t know about dealing with the kids and parents. I don’t have any special talent in coaching or baseball, but it was enjoyable, rewarding, and a learning opportunity. There is an interesting linkage between coaching kids and mentoring early career scientists. The best skill I acquired through both is being a good listener.

Staff News: What is one thing you can't live without?

Chris: I absolutely could not live without my family. We are very supportive of each other. If I wasn’t here at NCAR, I’d miss the people but my true center is with my family. I have been married to my wife, Mary Ann, for 20 years. We have a 19-year-old daughter, Isabelle, who is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis and a 16-year-old son, Benjamin, who attends Boulder High School. Some NCAR staff might remember seeing our kids when they were little and it might be hard to imagine that they are all grown up.

Staff News: What are your goals for the next six months in your new role?

Chris: I have goals for tactical things like budget and performance reviews, but looking at the bigger picture, I plan to spend time getting more comfortable in the job, learning more about my staff, and how interactions between us will work. Also, six months is enough time to significantly advance our plan for practical implementation of our strategic goals. We need to figure out how to manage our talents, the people we have, and address some of these really important goals we have as a lab. After that, it’s all about doing it and making course adjustments along the way.

Staff News: If you could have a second career, what would it be?

I’m really not actively pursuing another career at this time, but if I were to do something else, I’d like to become a writer. I’d be writing about science-related things, but I am not sure what. I love to write, partly because it is a quiet, reflective exercise, but also because I tend to think through things better as I write.


Rebecca Swisher, Internal Communications Specialist