A Legacy of Mentorship

RAL Internship Honors Memory of Tom Warner

Tom Warner was passionate about mentoring young scientists, teaching, and giving back to the community. He began working at NCAR in 1995 and was a long-time senior scientist in the Research Applications Laboratory until his death in 2011. Warner held a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in meteorology and specialized in numerical modeling of mesoscale atmospheric phenomena, regional climate modeling, mesoscale dynamics, data assimilation, marine meteorology, and desert meteorology.

He served as science manager for RAL’s National Security Applications Program and was the author of two textbooks used by universities around the world: Numerical Weather and Climate Prediction and Desert Meteorology. He was also a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

To carry on his legacy of mentorship, the Warner Internship for Scientific Enrichment (WISE) was formed. The internships are funded through donations and the first WISE internships were awarded in 2012. Visiting graduate students do not have to be hosted by RAL to be awarded the internship.

WISE offers graduate students opportunities to engage in direct exposure to a broad range of atmospheric research applications and impacts. It enhances the student's appreciation for the role of science in service to society.

The program honors Warner's personal commitment to the education and mentoring of students and professionals in the atmospheric sciences by providing support to graduate student education and outreach. WISE provides students with additional funding to enrich their experience while visiting at NCAR.

“WISE gives students a chance to learn about research applications and how their projects can be valuable to society,” said Sarah Tessendorf, who administers WISE.

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Jennifer Henderson (third from left) with some of her NCAR colleagues and her visiting dissertation advisor. From left: Julie Demuth (MMM), Rebecca Morss (MMM), Jennifer, and Gary Downey (Virginia Tech). (Courtesy photo.)

Staff News was able to catch up with former WISE recipient Jennifer Henderson, a PhD candidate at Virginia Tech, who shared her thoughts about her experience with us. She wrote:

The WISE project is a meaningful way for graduate students at NCAR to engage with people potentially impacted by their research. My project at a local elementary school gave me the time and resources to understand how third graders understand risk from severe weather and how I could help teachers fold useful information about weather hazards into their curricula.

My WISE work has led to other projects in my home state of Virginia and a renewed interest in communicating my research to others.

I would encourage other graduate students to apply for the WISE scholarship because it offers them an opportunity to explore intersections of science and society in their own research, and to do so with UCAR resources that connect them to a network of scientists and educators. The WISE program is not just about helping one student complete a project each year; it’s about the student joining a scientific community that has made a commitment to helping scientists learn about the multitude of ways that society can both inform and shape their research questions and benefit from their insights. From this perspective, WISE is an enriching experience on many levels.

How the application process works

When an NCAR scientist submits a Graduate Student Visitor Program application on behalf of a student, the scientist can also complete the WISE application. WISE is open to all graduate student visitors, including those not being hosted in RAL. This year’s deadline to apply is Oct. 31, 2015.

Students are asked to submit a two-week plan for what they’ll do that promotes service to society through education and outreach, diversity and inclusion, and/or technology transfer activities. Previous WISE students have developed and presented hands-on science activities for outreach events like NCAR’s Super Science Saturday, talked with students at local schools about how science affects them, and worked with education and citizen science programs like GLOBE or CoCoRaHS (the Community Collaborative Rain, Snow, and Hail Network).

Once accepted, the WISE student will get to meet with RAL leaders and learn about the different areas of research in the lab. At the end of the student’s visit, they present a summary of their activities to the RAL leaders.


Rebecca Swisher, Internal Communications Specialist