Dr. Melissa Burt, Research Scientist

Melissa & Mariah

Education & Experience

2018- Present: Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2016 – 2018: Research Scientist, Department of Atmospheric Science Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

2016 – 2018: 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

Interests

As a scientist, my research focused 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.