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Employee Spotlight: Amy Leibrand

March 1, 2024
Amy Leibrand

Women's History Month is an annual observance to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. As we celebrate this year, we’d like to highlight the vital contributions of women at NOAA. 

We talked with Amy Leibrand from NOAA’s Office of Low Earth Orbit Observations (LEO) to learn more about her and her role as a science communications specialist.

What's your official title and role at LEO/JPSS?

Two years ago, I made a career shift and joined NOAA’s Office of Low Earth Orbit Observations (LEO) as a science communications specialist. Prior to this, I spent 14 years in Earth sciences and biosciences research, which provided me with the necessary knowledge to effectively communicate about the value that LEO observations provide to society. My main responsibility is to author the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Science Digest that is published annually on the NOAA NESDIS website.

What do you love most about your job or career?

I am always learning something new—there are so many diverse applications of JPSS data, and I need to be informed enough about each to be able to write about them. That’s hard, but it’s also stimulating. And I get to be creative—finding new ways to transform technical content into understandable language and images. I also love being on the periphery of NOAA and NASA research, where scientists and engineers push the limits of what is achievable. It’s inspiring!

Amy Leibrand JPSS

Can you share a bit about yourself—where you're from, what sparked your interest in science, and where you went to college?

Basic childhood curiosity led to basic adult curiosity. I graduated with a degree in soil science from The Ohio State University, which led to a roller coaster of a career where I’ve played many roles over the last 20 years. I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, but this has served me well because I can be a chameleon when needed, adapting to different situations. As a result, my career path has been anything but linear, but each twist and turn has been a valuable learning experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Who motivates you? Any women in your life or in science who inspire you?

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to work alongside some truly amazing women in science. I particularly credit Natasha Sadoff, a program manager at NASA Headquarters and a longtime colleague, for nudging me towards science communication. There was a point when I was ready to leave research but was feeling lost about where to go next. Her own journey from research to outreach inspired me to pursue a communications path within the realm of Earth observations.

What advice would you give to future women in STEM?

Seek out role models, ignore gender roles, get comfortable feeling uncomfortable, push past imposter syndrome (this is a real thing, and many of the most accomplished women in science that I know experience it!). Join organizations, check out events, and remember, most of us at those events are feeling just as awkward as you are. Try new things, take risks. Approach everything with curiosity and as a learning experience, no matter the outcome. Believe in yourself.