Delores Knipp

University of Colorado, Boulder
smiling woman outdoorsAs a geo-space scientist In the Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, I study how distant stars,our own Sun, and  Earth's environment affect spacecraft and signals in the region where space meets our atmosphere.

I never intended to do what I am currently doing, nonetheless I love what I do.  When I was very little I was terrified of thunderstorms, yet by middle school I know I wanted to be a weather forecaster, mostly because I saw how much influence the weather had on my Mom and Dad’s farming activities in the central US.  Mom was a former bookkeeper and Dad worked very long hours in the fields. From them I learned math and persistence.

I majored in meteorology as an undergraduate and learned a bit about climate. When it came time to go to graduate college I learned a tough lesson: There were few jobs to be had by a meteorologist who didn’t have experience, and it was hard to get experience without having a job. So I joined the US Air Force for four years to get some experience.  Apparently I was a slow learner because I stayed for 22 years.  First, I was an aviation weather forecaster, then a consulting meteorologist. In the early 1980’s I was very fortunate to be selected to be the first woman faculty member of the US Air Force Academy Physics Department.   Suddenly I became a meteorologist-turned-physicist with a part-time interest in astronomy, all while learning on the job!

Ultimately the Air Force Academy sent me to University of California Los Angeles for a PhD in Atmospheric Science with an emphasis in Space Physics….and there I learned about the developing field of space weather.  I have been working on space weather topics ever since.  At the moment, I teach a graduate level course on space weather and space environment to engineering students.

Mom and my brothers and sisters and I worked jigsaw puzzles on Sunday afternoon when I was growing up.  I see the space weather  research I do now as being a giant jigsaw puzzle--but without the box to look at for a hint about how the pieces go together.

I work on a number of ‘part time’ jobs, although I am supposed to be working only half time. I teach graduate students about space weather every spring semester.  I run a research group called Space Environment Data Analysis (SEDA) group with three (soon to be four) graduate students and research support staff. I do my own research on linkages between solar eruptions/emission and disturbances in the upper atmosphere. I am often on review panels related to new science or the performance of groups that provide grants.   Finally,  I am the editor in chief for the American Geophysical Union’s Space Weather journal.

Being an editor for a major journal keeps me on my toes.   Almost every manuscript I see causes me to do some research.  I have to find out who is doing similar work and find out who might be willing and able to review the submitted paper. I have to judge whether or not the submitted paper is really a new discovery or result.  I am in constant contact with scientists and engineers, needling them to put their work in a written form that others can understand.   I also write editorials about what I believe to be important findings or concerns related to space weather.

All in all,  I stay pretty busy.   However the highlight of my life is really at home with my husband and cat.   I travel a lot, so they keep each other company.  My husband keeps the household going while I teach and travel.   I try to do the cooking on the weekend so that we both have “left overs” for meals during the week.   I must admit,  I probably eat out too much.  My biggest work-life balance issue is getting enough exercise.

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