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NOAA Women in Data

August 19, 2018

Women make up nearly half of our country's workforce, but only about 25 percent are employed in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. We want to celebrate the trailblazing women within NOAA who prove that women play a critical role in the continued success of our organization. If there are any girls out there who love science, weather and space - we have some role models for you!

Pam Sullivan - A Leader in the Development of Satellite Technology

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Pam Sullivan is the System Program Director for the GOES-R Series Program, and that means she’s in charge of the development, integration and launching of the Western Hemisphere’s most advanced weather-observing and environmental-monitoring satellites. She also oversees development of the ground system that receives the data from the satellites, generates data products, and distributes the products to forecasters. The GOES-R Series includes NOAA’s operational GOES East, the recently-launched GOES-17, and the upcoming GOES-T and GOES-U satellites.

Before joining NOAA, Pam managed the GOES-R Series Flight project for our friends at NASA. When it comes to developing a satellite and launching it into space, she’s done it all! Pam also served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, training as a space shuttle flight controller and supporting military space experiments. Pam is a four-time recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I’m thrilled to see so many young women choosing STEM careers and not being intimidated by the history of this being a male-dominated industry. You work hard, you do your best, and you can do anything you choose to.” - Pam Sullivan

Jackie Townsend - Creating Technology to Address the Needs of Science


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As Deputy Program Manager, Jackie Townsend is the JPSS second-in-command. She works on the development, launch, testing and operation of the spacecraft of all four JPSS missions - including our now operational NOAA-20 satellite.

Jacqueline has worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for more than 25 years. She began her NASA career working space environmental effects in GSFC’s Materials Engineering Branch. She joined the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) program in 1997, and supported the program through three successful servicing missions in several critical engineering and management roles.

She helped create programs and processes to link science needs to technology development across the breadth of NASA’s astrophysics endeavors. She also managed the Satellite Servicing Study, capturing the lessons learned from 20 years of HST missions and creating a roadmap for NASA’s servicing capabilities into the future. Although Jackie works for our partners at NASA, as head of JPSS she is part of the broader NOAA team and we are lucky to have her!

Ms. Townsend holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of Maryland–College Park and has published more than 40 papers on space architectures, space environmental effects, and engineering management.

Suzanne Bricker - Researching Water Quality to Save Coastal Areas


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Suzanne is a Physical Scientist and the Manager of NOAA's National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment for the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

As a physical scientist and Manager of NOAA’s National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment, her responsibilities include conducting research about nutrient-related water quality problems in coastal areas, and figuring out what to do about these problems. Her most recent research investigates the use of cultivated oysters and other bivalve shellfish for nutrient mitigation (in addition to providing a sustainable source of seafood) with a team of researchers including excellent women researchers from NOAA’s NMFS, USGS, and international agencies and universities.

Suzanne has many other ‘Women in Data’ whom she works with who inspire her. For example, she and Dr. Julie Rose from the Milford CT National Marine Fisheries Lab were awarded a 2017 NOAA Administrator's Award for the work they have done to show the use of oysters as a nutrient mitigation measure. In addition, Suzanne and her colleague Dr. Karen Rice from USGS, Charlottesville office published a paper in 2014 that highlighted the potential for use of oysters in Potomac River to reduce nutrient related issues that was spotlighted sinceit was one of the first papers to highlight this concept in the Chesapeake Region.

Here is Suzanne’s advice on embarking on a career:

“Network. Talk to people about what you want to do and be proactive about finding out the details. When I was in college I worked in a lab during the summer and talked to the graduate students about their work. I learned who was involved in the research that I wanted to do, and then I contacted them. My parents also talked about my work. I’m a good example of “It’s who you know that can make a difference,” since my summer work led to my being accepted in my major professor’s lab. Everyone can teach you something, and, if you want to do something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”

Ellen Ramirez - Analyzing Severe Weather to Save Lives


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Ellen Ramirez is a physical scientist in the NESDIS Office of Satellite and Product Operations, Satellite Analysis Branch.

She produces satellite derived text and graphical analyses used by U.S. federal warning agencies in support of monitoring Tropical Cyclones, Volcanic Ash, and Wildfires and Smoke. She is the operational lead for the Marine Pollution product area, which entails managing a team of 10 analysts that identify accidental and intentional oil discharges in U.S. waters, and subsequently issue pollution reports.

Her fascination in weather began at a young age as her dad frequently took her to sit alongside the local severe weather spotters in her hometown of Wichita Falls, TX, famous for the April 1979 "Terrible Tuesday" tornado. While studying meteorology in undergrad on the east coast of Florida, Ellen experienced firsthand the landfalls of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne which ultimately inspired her to pursue a thesis with an emphasis on remote sensing in the tropics. Her advice to young women in STEM is to forget the stereotypes, and be the positive change you want to see.

Prior to NOAA, Ellen worked at the Naval Research Lab (NRL) Monterey, CA under the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program, and was a teaching fellow for WEST (Water, the Environment, Science and Teaching), funded by the National Science Foundation. She holds a B.S. in Meteorology (2008) from the Florida Institute of Technology and a M.S. in Atmospheric Science (2011) from the University of Utah. Outside of work she's a proudly employed mother of three young children, and wants everyone to know that with hard work and dedication it's possible to have both a fulfilling career and a great family life.

Kathryn Gilbert - Predicting Our Ocean and Our Weather


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Kathryn Gilbert is the Deputy Director of the Ocean Prediction Center and the Deputy Director of the Weather Prediction Center in NOAA's National Weather Service.

She began her career with the National Weather Service in 1990 as a meteorologist working on statistical modeling processing and has grown her career into an important leadership role within the organization leading approximately 70 employees.

Kathryn’s career was first inspired in her 7th grade science class, her favorite assignment was drawing features on a weather map. After first deciding to pursue a career in engineering like her dad, she took a meteorology class in college just for fun as an elective, and was hooked.

She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with bachelor's and master's degrees in Atmospheric Science. Her best career advice is: "Be persistent. Work a little bit harder. Get things done. Like in any competitive field, STEM requires a drive to succeed and knowing your value and your strengths will help you get there."

Ahira Sánchez-Lugo - Leading Global Climate Assessment


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Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a climatologist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Since she can remember she always had a fascination for severe storms and hurricanes. To her these events were exciting and simply amazing. It was not until Hurricane Georges struck Puerto Rico in 1998 that she realized the destructive potential of hurricanes. Emerging from this experience, she was determined to pursue a career in atmospheric sciences.

Ahira earned a B.S. in physics from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. After college, she received a NOAA fellowship to work on her Master’s degree in meteorology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Part of the fellowship involved training at NCEI (formerly known as NCDC), which led to the position she’s held since 2007. One of Ahira's primary job duties is lead author of NCEI’s monthly State of the Climate global assessment and is charged with analyzing global climate data, along with recognizing and documenting emerging climate events. As such, she helps to inform the Nation’s and world’s understanding of the state of the climate. Ahira is also a chapter editor for the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society (BAMS) State of the Climate report. As part of her work for the past several years, she’s contributed to an annual global climate report produced by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In 2012 she served as the scientific coordinator for the report.

Ahira's career advice: "The way I see it is that there is always room for improvement. Keep an open mind on ways that you can continue to grow professionally and personally."