Kevin Strongman, a recent graduate from the College of Science, received his degree in Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences in 2021. Now a full-time employee as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tucson, Strongman has been able to take his experiences from the University of Arizona and apply them to his career.
Strongman spoke with the College of Science to reflect on his time as an undergraduate and how it prepared him to become a meteorologist.
Current job title: Meteorologist
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
Current town: Tucson, AZ
Degree(s) from UA: Bachelor of Science in Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences with an emphasis in Atmospheric Sciences
Degree(s) from other institutions: Associates of Science in Meteorology
College of Science: How did your time at University of Arizona and College of Science prepare you for post-graduate life and your career today?
Strongman: The University of Arizona provided many research opportunities within the institution or with outside organizations. These opportunities gave me a chance to actively learn about my field of study and expand my skills outside the classroom. I am glad that I took advantage of those opportunities during my time at the university. It allowed me to get more practical experience, explore my subject outside the classroom, and work with potential employers. Plus, the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences’ faculty were very friendly and open to talk about the field of study, different research ideas, and an opportunity for more one-on-one learning interaction on complex subjects and assignments. The department created a collaborative type of environment that proved to be an excellent way to learn, think critically, and communicate effectively. This mirrors what you may find everyday within the career field.
COS: What drew you to the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences department when you were deciding on your major as a student?
Strongman: The Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences is one of the very few places in the country where you can study the full hydrologic cycle. It is an amazing idea to have all the leading experts and future ones under one department to discuss, learn, and conduct research together on varying aspects of the water cycle. As we know, the earth system is very connected. Being a student, you are able to take a mixture of hydrology and atmospheric science classes in the same building–it cuts down on the commute across campus between classes. And, when I was researching potential schools around the country, I was surprised at the level of response from the department’s academic advisors. They were very helpful in my decision process and answered all my questions in a timely and respectful manner about the application process, transferring credits, and explaining the academic program. The departmental advisors main goal is to set up students for success from the moment you connect with them.
COS: When you look back on your time as a Wildcat, what memories stand out? Any favorite classes, labs, mentors, or research projects?
Strongman: There were many great memories during my time at the University of Arizona which include two beneficial classes and undergraduate research. The two classes were about water resources economics and environmental risk. These two subjects taught real life applications and defined problems to solve in different situations. It made me think critically outside the box and how I can create solutions using current tools and techniques. The environmental risk course was especially useful because I was able to understand and explain uncertainty to a potential stakeholder as a meteorologist. Weather impacts different people and industries every day. I have to be able to provide the best up-to-date information to the decision maker to protect resources, properties, and lives.
The university atmosphere allowed me to do research as an undergraduate student and I was excited to take part in some research and learn the full process of conducting research and presenting the results. Doing research was a handful, but it taught me valuable life skills outside of the classroom which prepared me for the current job that I have. Especially when I need to translate complex information into bite size ones for educational purposes and to potential stakeholders–simplifying science for everyone to understand.
COS: After graduating with a degree in Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and now in your career, what has surprised you most about how your education has impacted your professional success?
Strongman: I am surprised at learning different skills and tools that are outside my normal course work in hydrology and atmospheric science. One particular skill I developed was computer coding and I am glad that I took a few computer coding courses at the University of Arizona. Coding has started to become a necessary tool to manipulate large data sets and display results for research purposes and improving services within the job. I saw how useful coding was when I was completing my undergraduate research project and everything started to click. Coding has been an essential tool in my toolbox to tackle today’s problems and explore new concepts in hydrology and meteorology. Technology is constantly evolving within the scientific field and we will need to continually tap into these other skills to further our understanding of the changing environment.
COS: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing an education or career in the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences department?
Strongman: The best advice I got from my academic advisors is apply, apply, apply. Always said in threes. Take advantage of all the available internships, scholarships, and research opportunities. Apply to all them; even if you have doubts about getting accepted. These opportunities within the department, the university, and outside organizations will give you a chance to explore new paths within the world of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, and one of these opportunities may lead into a potential career.