Dr. Melissa Burt, Research Scientist

Melissa Burt

Melissa & Mariah

Melissa Burt, PhD Candidate and Education & Diversity Manager at CMMAP

Education & Experience

2016 – Present       Research Scientist, Department of Atmospheric Science Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2016 – Present       Education & Diversity Manager, Department of Atmospheric Science, College of Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2008-2016               Education & Diversity Manager, Center for Multi-scale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2016                         Ph.D., Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2008                         M.S., Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2005                         B.S., Meteorology, Millersville University, Millersville, PA


My research focuses on understanding the role and influence of clouds on the distribution of Arctic sea ice. I also focus on the influence of clouds in Arctic climate changes. I also love to garden, cook, run half marathons, and listen to Mariah Carey music.

How I became a scientist

Ever since I was a young child, I have been interested in the weather. It started as a fear of thunderstorms and turned into a desire to learn more. In high school, I started to become more intrigued by the weather and was even featured as a main character in my high school physics teacher’s weather cartoons as the weather girl.

I decided to attend Millersville University in Pennsylvania where I could major in Meteorology. Throughout my undergraduate time, I had lots of ups and downs, and from time to time found that I struggled with my coursework.  Fortunately, I found a mentor in one of my Professors who encouraged me to not give up my dreams and stick with it. I participated in SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science), which is a four-year, summer research internship program for undergraduate students. This program transformed me as a student and allowed me to find my niche in the field as well as a great group of friends.

I then went to Colorado State University and started working on a Masters Degree in Atmospheric Science. My Masters thesis focused on using a climate model to simulate the climate of the Last Glacial Maximum.  Throughout my time getting my Masters degree, I started participating in education and outreach.

Periodically I would go to elementary and middle schools and talk with kids about weather and climate. Introducing them to weather using hands on activities. This is a way to engage students in the leaning process. I would also visit local high school science classes and talk about careers, and the road I took to get where I am.

After receiving my Masters Degree, I took a job with the NSF Science and Technology Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes (CMMAP) as the Education and Diversity Manager. With this job I have the opportunity to work with K-12 students to help enhance their understanding of global climate and mentor undergraduate students and help guide them along their career pathways.

After a few years, I decided to continue towards a Ph.D. My research focuses on future climates, analyzing the effects that clouds have on Arctic sea ice distribution. I successfully defended my Ph.D. in February 2016.

I think that I have the best of both worlds, I am able to teach young kids about weather and climate and mentor young adults during a pivotal time in their career.  I have the added bonus of working on climate science research. Without the mentors that I have had over the last few years, the opportunity to participate in the SOARS program, and all of the years of encouragement from my family, and perseverance, I would not be where I am today.

How my work benefits society

Surface air temperatures in the Arctic are warming nearly twice as fast as the global mean temperature, consequently sea ice cover is decreasing at a rapid rate. My research helps gain a better understanding of the role of clouds and how they interact with sea ice.