Z d e n k a  S m i t h
Research Physicist
Space Environment Center, NOAA, Boulder, CO

Who am I?

I am a physicist in the Space Environment Center. The main work of SEC is to forecast Space weather. I work in the research branch of our Center. I study events on the Sun that we think may eject material into the Interplanetary Medium and cause interplanetary disturbances. Then, using numerical models, I investigate how these interplanetary disturbances evolve as they propagate out from the Sun to 1 AU. (Ed. note: AU = Astronomical Unit, the average distance of Earth from the Sun, 93 million miles, 150 million km.) I look for ways to predict the arrival of the disturbances and whether they will cause geomagnetic disturbances. This involves data analysis, and the use of numerical models.
Nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, SEC has many great views.

How did I get to where I am?

A lot of luck, and a decided bent for math/physics. It's interesting, in hindsight to contemplate the various turning points in life. I think it helps to make plans, have goals, even if one changes them often.

I received my secondary schooling at Withington Girls' School, near Manchester, England-a peaceful time. I enjoyed Math/Science, also history, geography, arts, music, but found languages (French and Latin) hard! I seemed to have no memory for all those spelling words and rules. When we had to choose at about age 14, I chose the physical sciences (I hated the thought of catching an earthworm, let alone dissecting it) and, later, Chemistry as a major-partly just to be different, I think. I really enjoyed the physical chemistry, but found the memorization of the inorganic/organic parts hard.

After high school, I was fortunate in obtaining a summer job working in the geology group of JPL's lunar program. (Ed. note: NASA/CalTech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, CA.) I spent my summers, while an undergraduate, working there. It was an exciting time, with the race for the moon, and all the information gained by the Ranger, Surveyor and Orbiter programs. And then, of course, came Apollo. I loved the geology, particularly the mineralogy/crystallography and lunar science. I went off to college, Bryn Mawr, where I was encouraged to take Geology 101, but was allowed to start with E&M in Physics. Learning the elegance of Maxwell's equations persuaded me to go into physics.

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