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Meteorologist Kelly Mahoney ‘03 Forecasts Weather for a Changing Planet

Following is one of 28 first-person alumni profiles that were compiled in a photo book for the Park Foundation Trustees in September 2016. Each alumnus was ask to share highlights of his or her path from receiving the Park Scholarship to the present day.

Kelly Mahoney '03 conducting water studies near Berthoud Pass on the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide

Kelly Mahoney ’03 conducting water studies near Berthoud Pass on the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide

Name: Dr. Kelly Mahoney ’03
High school: Mt. Hebron High School
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland
Undergraduate field(s) of study: Meteorology; minor in Spanish
Additional degrees: M.S. (2005) and Ph.D. (2009), NC State
Current place of residence: Boulder, Colorado
Current job title and employer: Research Meteorologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

I am a research scientist in the Physical Sciences Division at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. I study flood events and extreme rainfall and work with weather forecasters and various decision-making groups to achieve research outcomes that meet stakeholder needs. My work seeks to understand extreme precipitation so that we can both improve weather forecasts to better protect lives and property, as well as anticipate and plan for how flood events may change in a changing climate.

Kelly Mahoney '03 at Rocky Mountain National Park's Lawn Lake, site of a flood she studied which was caused by dam failure

Kelly Mahoney ’03 at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Lawn Lake, site of a flood she studied which was caused by dam failure

The Park Scholarships program’s focus on and encouragement of a well-rounded university experience is something for which I am continually grateful. The challenge, encouragement, and facilitation to pursue goals and activities that extend beyond the normal undergraduate experience allowed me to grow and learn in ways that pleasantly surprise me with their utility many, many(!) years later. Despite majoring in a physical science where outreach and community involvement are not generally highly valued, my myriad volunteer experiences with diverse groups (from Hurricane Floyd flood victims to Raleigh’s homeless community), out-of-my-comfort zone trips (storm chasing with a group of strangers for weeks!), and study of topics completely unrelated to my field of choice have contributed invaluably to the professional and personal successes I enjoy today. Despite being (fortunately) busier than ever with an exciting career and a young family to keep up with, I continue to genuinely enjoy all kinds of outreach and community service opportunities—a sense of commitment and passion for which I strongly thank the Park Foundation and Park Scholarships program for emphasizing and fostering.   

Kelly Mahoney '03 boarding the NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter aircraft in Honolulu, HI to serve as on-board scientist for the NOAA El Nino Rapid Response Project

Kelly Mahoney ’03 boarding the NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter aircraft in Honolulu, HI to serve as on-board scientist for the NOAA El Nino Rapid Response Project

Thank you for providing a program that enables and encourages all of us scholars to think beyond ourselves. I am so grateful to have had not only the amazing resources and financial support to pursue my goals and dreams, but also to be a part of an amazing, inspiring, and unique community of other scholars.

posted 2016.10.31