Katie Bachli ’21 is Achieving Her Dreams One Opportunity at a Time

My first year at Plymouth State, I was goofy and adrift, packed with shenanigans and adolescent antics. I had no idea where I wanted to go with meteorology after college; I just knew that it was my passion. I heard about an invaluable internship opportunity known as the NEPARS-REU program. At the time, I had a 3.9 GPA and decided to apply. When I received my rejection letter two months later, I felt more deflated than a football in the 2014 AFC championship. I cried. I was extremely hard on myself. Why wasn’t I good enough? Those weeks of disappointment and self-loathing eventually evolved into an unmatched, fierce motivation. As the first-year shenanigans diminished, whiteboards in Boyd Science Center were completely coated with derivation after derivation of atmospheric processes. My days consisted of caffeine, brain strain, and feverish studying.

I heard that Plymouth’s Dr. Eric Kelsey, along with one of our graduate students, Liz Jurkowski, was conducting a project along Mt. Washington that dealt with the mountain’s snowpack and its temperature ranges. This really sparked my interest, as data collected would eventually be used to help the National Weather Service (NWS) predict flooding events. I decided to help out with the project and hiked Mount Washington to assist with wiring, installing, and securing the sensors. Shortly after, I wanted to help out with the Boyd rooftop observations. I woke up around 7:30 am to take rainfall observations and recorded each observation on the CoCoRaHS Network, which provides observations for data users across the nation.

Participating in activities outside my academic studies allowed me to develop deeper relationships with professors and fellow students. Liz got a position with NWS Buffalo, and Dr. Kelsey asked me to take over her duties in the Isotope Analyzer Laboratory. I learned how to pipette worldwide water samples, run tests using an LGR isotope analyzer, and collect the data for researchers to use.

I applied for the REU program a second time, and I got in! I spent the summer of 2019 collaborating with others to create a 30-year climatology of atmospheric rivers in the northeastern United States. We then used our climatology to look into precipitation impacts. I got the opportunity to present my research at SUNY Albany, the American Meteorological Society Centennial, and the Northeastern Storm Conference. I connected with remarkable people who impacted my life and my education in ways much more than they know.

I soon realized how much hydrometeorology experience I had under my belt and decided to apply for an internship with the NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC). When I got my acceptance e-mail, I was shocked. Utter elation coursed through my body—my childhood dream came true, during a very cloudy time.

I am currently an intern at the WPC’s Hydro-Meteorology Testbed, working remotely with other scientists on the eighth year of the Flash Flooding and Intense Rainfall (FFaIR) Experiment, which focuses on improving forecasting methods for extreme rainfall and flooding events across the United States. My project will consist of verifying for the multitude of new meteorological model configurations, analyzing differences between them, and reporting back to model developers. I am taking two graduate courses in the fall, and after graduation I hope to earn my master’s while continuing my research. It’s amazing how far I’ve come by pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve grown so much and hopefully one day I can call the Weather Service my official home.

I want to thank my academic advisor and professor, Dr. Eric Hoffman, my other professors Dr. Eric Kelsey, Dr. Lourdes Aviles, Dr. Sam Miller, and Dr. Jay Cordeira, my mentors Dr. Nick Metz and Dr. Sarah Trojniak, and all of my meteorology friends who support me every day.

Katie Bachli ’21, from Dalton, MA, is a meteorology major with a minor in mathematics.