After graduating from NC State with a degree in physics, Ryan Neely ‘09 headed west to pursue his next degree. As the Earth System Research Laboratory – Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (ESRL/CIRES) graduate fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Neely is pursuing his Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic science. CIRES is a joint institute of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the university.
Neely’s research incorporates Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) observations of stratospheric aerosols and climate modeling. His work involves shooting lasers into the atmosphere and measuring atmospheric constituents in the upper troposphere and stratosphere at different places around the globe. Neely then uses these measurements to assess changes in upper atmospheric aerosol composition and establish links between climate change.
While Neely has built and tested his own lidars in Boulder, he has also been working with lasers well beyond the borders of Colorado. During recent trips to Greenland, Neely installed a new lidar at the National Science Foundation camp located on the top of the Greenlandic Ice Sheet, and fit a new measurement channel on an instrument near the coast. His research will take him to New Zealand, American Samoa, Hawaii, and then back to Greenland in the upcoming year.
Neely started work in Boulder with NOAA during the summer after his first year at NC State and returned subsequent summers during his undergraduate experience.
He credits his Park Scholarships experience with providing the foundation that allowed him to be awarded his current graduate fellowship. “I think a large part of why the Park helped me win this fellowship is because the program showed me how to bring a large group of diverse people with differing ideas together to work towards a central goal,” says Neely. “The modern scientist does not work alone and NOAA is a team environment.”
While in Greenland, Neely served as a principal investigator and coordinated the work of three divisions at NOAA’s ESRL, along with a team of faculty and graduate students from his university. In the process, the group tested, validated, and installed a fully automated lidar in less than a year. “My leadership abilities were key in the success of the project,” says Neely. “I believe I am successful at this type of science because it involves the collaboration of a truly global community of researchers to understand the problems that face us when looking at climate change â€“ the Park program fostered these abilities and helped me develop them in a professional arena.”
After completing his doctorate, Neely plans to continue his research and applications at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in the Global Monitoring Division.