Hobart and William Smith Colleges - A Focus on Meteorology for Johnson ’19
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A Focus on Meteorology for Johnson ’19

For Darby Johnson ’19, there has never been any doubt that her future lay in the field of meteorology. “She’s very focused,” says Associate Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz, who was Johnson’s adviser.

At Ohio University, Johnson just completed her first semester as a graduate student in geography with a concentration in meteorology, where she also works as a teaching assistant for meteorology and geography classes.

The Ohio native says that she was a constant presence in her local and school libraries in high school, always looking for information on weather. When it came time to apply to colleges, she sent in eight applications—with HWS the only liberal arts college on her list. She has always been confident in her decision to come to Geneva.

“HWS prepared me very well for graduate school,” she says. “The professors in the Geoscience Department were instrumental because they pushed me and held students to a high standard.”

“Darby took advantage of all the opportunities that HWS has to offer,” says Metz. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant for Metz and Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird, she was a research assistant to Metz, a student assistant in the department, and researcher and mentor with the Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric & Related Sciences Research Experience for Undergraduates (NEPARS REU) program.

“With NEPARS REU, I provided assistance to students and taught them how to conduct research,” she says. “At the same time, I was working on my own project.”

That project, which became Johnson’s Honors project “Convection associated with Warm-Season Stationary Fronts East of the Rocky Mountains,” examined the relationship of severe weather such as tornadoes, hail and wind with stationary fronts. It’s research that stands to advance the whole profession as it has real-world implications,” says Metz. “It can be used by forecasters to actually help people, or to set forth guidelines for emergency managers.”

Her undergraduate experiences have paid off in a smooth transition to grad school, says Johnson, who credits Metz and Laird with arming her with the tools to succeed at the graduate level.

“Through their classes and mentorship on research, [they] taught me time management skills, perseverance and a work ethic that are all necessary for succeeding in grad school,” she says. “They taught me how to conduct research and write papers at a high level. My grad school professors have been very impressed with my self-sufficiency in those areas and I owe it all to Nick and Neil.”

As a student, Darby Johnson ’19 was the recipient of the Professor Brooks McKinney Annual Scholarship. In the photo above, Darby Johnson ’19, Patrick McMillan ’21 and Ian Beckley ’20 photograph an approaching severe thunderstorm near Sterling, Colorado, during Geoscience 299 meteorology field course in 2019.

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.