What is the broad topic of your research, and what is your background in?
My PhD is in physics but I focused on the chemical composition of the atmosphere. In a very broad sense, I study the atmosphere from the surface to the mesosphere. For most of my career I worked on understanding stratospheric ozone. I started out working on mid-latitude ozone. When I started my post-doc with Ross Salawitch, he did the biggest favor anyone could have done for me and that was to have me work on something other than my PhD research. It wasn’t until coming to UMD that I started working on air quality and climate. Our mantra is “One Atmosphere” so I’m very fortunate to be able to investigate so many different aspects of the atmosphere.
Why did you choose this career path? When did you first realize this career was meant for you? What previous jobs have you had
When I was in 8th grade I decided I was going to be a physicist without really knowing what that meant. When I finally realized what it meant I decided to stick with it anyway but I realized I didn’t like the “traditional” paths most physicists took like particle physics. I was watching a Discovery channel program on lightning and one of the people they interviewed was a physicist from New Mexico Tech who studied lightning by launching rockets into clouds to trigger strikes. I was so happy that there were physicists who studied something interesting that I immediately applied to New Mexico Tech. I had a strong dislike for chemistry and computers at that point but ended discovering I had a knack for modeling the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
I once spent a summer as a lifeguard and I also spent the better part of a decade working at a cemetery while I was in high school and college. Aside from the dead people it was great working outdoors. I have had some job offers to become a chef.
If you could hit the “redo” button, and had to pick a field outside of atmospheric science, what career would you choose instead?
Professional chef or a backup singer
What are you most passionate about, (besides your research and career at the University of Maryland, of course?)
Old recipes and traditional ways of cooking. My favorite recipes are those that have been passed down over the years. I’ve been making my own pickles, jam, and sausage for years now.
Where did you grow up? Tell us about your family and hometown. What is your favorite memory growing up?
I grew up in North Tonawanda, NY, home of the Wurlitzer organ and jukebox and just north of where Buffalo wings were born. I’m the youngest of 3 (older brother and older sister). My mom was a nurse and my dad used to work for Bell Aerospace, the company that built the first supersonic aircraft. I have lots of happy memories of growing up. Back then, kids were given a lot of freedom to roam so we spent a lot of time riding bikes around or building snow forts. When I got older, most of my time was spent swimming competitively. One of my happiest memories was when our team went undefeated and was ranked 3rd overall in NY.
Do you enjoy watching sports? If so, what is your favorite team to watch?
I hated watching sports growing up but in a place like Buffalo you get brainwashed into supporting your local teams. You also learn how to expect to be let down every year. The sport I love to watch more than all others is hockey. It doesn’t matter who is playing it’s just fun to watch.
What kind of hobbies do you have, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not teaching or doing research? What got you into these activities?
I like making food. My grandmothers and my mother began teaching me when I was young. I started out making cheesecakes because they were too expensive to get at a restaurant. I also read a lot of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/and British naval historical fiction (I know, it’s a weird mix).
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
It’s kind of an eclectic mix. I’m a product of the 70’s so I listen to a lot of Prog. Rock bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, and E.L.P. but it’s mixed in with 80’s rap, 90’s grunge, and more recent bands like Secret Machines and In This Moment. Big fan of the Tragically Hip and some contemporary Irish/Scottish music like The Battlefield Band.
What’s the most exciting place you’ve ever traveled to, or most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
One of the most exciting things I’ve done was spend the millennial New Year’s eve along the Rheine river with thousands of drunk German’s launching fireworks. They were all very polite about it though.
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
My favorite book is “The Black Company” by Glen Cook. Favorite movie…that’s a tough one. Shawshank Redemption or Aliens
Is there anything else interesting about you that students in the department probably don’t know about you?
I once won a contest by snorting a ramen noodle up my nose and spitting it out my mouth.