Women’s History Month – Highlighting women in CIMMS: Q&A with Burkely Gallo

Burkely Gallo.
Burkely Gallo.

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies is publishing a series of stories highlighting some women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in March.

Burkely T. Gallo is a CIMMS postdoctoral research associate working at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. Gallo received her doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Her work includes evaluating forecasts from convection-allowing models and using convection-allowing ensembles to create tornado forecasts. She has facilitated experiments in NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed, where she tests these and other cutting-edge guidance from convection-allowing models.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I’ve been fascinated by the weather since I was little, particularly by thunderstorms and tornadoes. In fact, I used to be extremely scared of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms! That fear eventually turned into a desire to understand the atmosphere, which led me to research meteorology.

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?
A: In my job, I do research that is very operationally-focused, so I work closely with forecasters. By working with people who will use the guidance I develop, I know that I’m helping create better forecasts that could save lives. Plus, the weather is different every day, meaning that no two days of my job are exactly alike!

Q: Tell us about a project or accomplishment you consider to be the most significant in your career?
A: I’m still quite early in my career, but I am extremely involved in the annual Spring Forecasting Experiment in NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed. The experiment brings together forecasters and researchers from around the world to test new model guidance and forecast tools in a real-time setting. This experiment is significant in that it facilitates important conversations between the research and operations communities, so that both groups can better understand each other and together produce improved severe weather forecasts.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I learned how to drive a stick shift on my parents’ farm when I was 10 years-old.

Q: What advice would you provide to up and coming meteorologists or others in your field?
A: Take advantage of even small opportunities that come your way, as you never know when they might lead to something much larger. All of my largest accomplishments seem to stem from small opportunities that I took advantage of at the time, even if they took some up-front effort beyond what I was already doing.

Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: Winning a National Science Foundation fellowship to fund my graduate education definitely sticks out in my memory. I had spent a lot of time and effort on the application, and I knew that the fellowship was very competitive and would enable me to study wherever I wanted, since it was applicable to most meteorology programs. The night that the results were announced, I woke up at around 3 am to check them and found out that I had won one.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: Work hard, play hard, and always try to be empathetic and keep a positive attitude.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: Hiking, camping, or sitting around a campfire with my family and friends. If I had to pick a specific spot, I would say Cook Forest State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?
A: True leadership to me means a willingness to listen coupled with the ability to make difficult decisions and have a vision for the future that will benefit society. That way, leaders can guide people in the direction of progress while taking into account the unique circumstances affecting each individual.

Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
A: I would probably be a Disney vacation planner. I love Disney World, organizing things, and helping people have fun, so helping people design their vacations so that they have the best experience possible sounds like a blast!