Dr. Laura Condon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences (HAS) at the University of Arizona. Dr. Condon's renowned research focuses on large-scale water sustainability and the dynamic behavior of managed hydrologic systems in the context of past development and future climate change. Her work combines physically based numerical modeling with statistical techniques to evaluate large systems using rigorous quantitative methods.
Dr. Condon, a native of Boulder, CO, earned her B.S. from Columbia University and M.S. and Ph.D. in Hydrologic Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines - Golden. She joined the UArizona faculty in 2018 and initiated the Condon Hydrology Lab research group, which focuses on groundwater surface water interactions and large scale hydrologic modeling.
"Laura has been a great addition to our faculty in the last several years," said Dr. Tom Meixner, Professor and Department Head of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. "Her cutting edge work on understanding groundwater and its interaction with climate and human water use promise to aid water management in the decades ahead. Her mentoring of students both in her research group and beyond has strengthened our teaching and mentoring of students from freshmen to PhD."
Laura was nominated for the Scientist Spotlight series for her outstanding research and mentoring efforts within our community. This monthly series highlights faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers throughout the College of Science and the tremendous work they are doing to advance the college alongside their peers.
College of Science: Tell us a little more about your path to the University of Arizona and your current role as an Assistant Professor of Hydrology.
Laura: Growing up on a farm in Colorado got me interested in water sustainability from an early age. There are a lot of ways to work on water issues though, and it was hard to decide the right path. I have always enjoyed math, so I opted for engineering. After I got my bachelors, I worked for several years at an environmental consulting firm and then for the Bureau of Reclamation. I did a lot of water supply modeling and I loved working on real world problems. Ultimately, though I decided that I really wanted to do research and figure out how to build better tools. I went back to graduate school, and when I finished, I got a job as an assistant professor at Syracuse University. I enjoyed NY, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it back to the west when I saw a job opening at UA. Luckily for me, I got the job and here I am!
COS: As a student, what drew you to hydrology and your research on water sustainability?
Laura: Water has always been a fascinating subject to me. Hydrology is a physical science, but the issues we consider connect to all sorts of societal questions. As a student, it felt to me like a subject that you could take in a million directions. I liked the idea that my work could provide answers that could make a difference for real-world issues. I think the other thing that really attracted me was how complex and challenging it is. Understanding and predicting watershed behaviors in a changing climate is a big scientific challenge. Then if you add in human decision making and all the ways we move water and change landscapes it gets even messier.
COS: What is your proudest career or academic achievement to date?
Laura: That’s a hard question. I’m not sure what I am most proud of, but I will say that getting my NSF CAREER proposal funded was a very validating experience for me as an early career scientist. I love collaborating with others, so a lot of the research I do is part of large interdisciplinary teams. This proposal was a rare experience where I was the sole investigator. Getting it accepted helped give me confidence that I have ideas that would stand on their own.
COS: What are some of your favorite aspects of working at the University?
Laura: I really love working with students. There are a lot of career paths that you can take as an academic, and I think that one of the unique benefits of being a professor is the opportunity to work directly with students. I enjoy teaching grad and undergrad classes, and I am lucky mentor a great group of graduate students in their research. I am always inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity that students bring to their work. They keep it interesting and help me remember the bigger reasons why we do this research in the first place.
COS: Outside of the office, what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?
Laura: I spend a lot of time on my computer for work, so when I’m not working, I love being active and getting outside. I enjoy running and mountain biking and taking my dog for walks. I’m also getting used to the Tucson climate and trying to learn how to grow cacti and garden in the desert, which is a fun challenge. My husband and I both love good food so we are always cooking and trying new restaurants in the area.
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