Solving the fluid dynamics equation of the atmosphere every day.
For the television meteorologist, every workday is different, because the weather is always changing.
Melissa Nord grew up in Georgia. After graduating from Kennesaw Mountain High School, she attended Georgia Tech. She earned a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) in 2013.
Melissa is one of the meteorologists at WUSA 9, the local CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In this work, there is no average workday, because the weather is always changing.
The forecasts vary day-to-day, from easy to hair-pulling difficult: A heat wave that’s likely to continue another five days? Fairly Easy. Predicting snow amounts and where the rain-mix-snow line will be for a coastal storm that’s more than two days out? Difficult.
What is your average workday like?
It’s never the same two days in a row.
I forecast the local weather, create graphics to tell the story, and broadcast on multiple platforms: during newscasts and shows, on our mobile app and website, and on social media. Facebook Live, Instagram videos, answering questions on Twitter—it’s all part of my job, and the weather never sleeps!
What makes it even more challenging, but fun, is the diverse topography of our viewing area. It covers the mountains in West Virginia and western Maryland through Washington, DC, and over to southern Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. We have several microclimates and changes in topography that will influence the forecast in one location but not in another. I feel that I’m still in school every day, solving the fluid dynamics equation of our atmosphere.
I particularly enjoy getting out in the community and teaching the weather to the next generation of scientists at schools and community programs. Those kids always make me smile. They’re brilliant and always curious to know more!
How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your current position?
Georgia Tech taught me time management and how to work under pressure. That’s crucial in my industry—finding the most efficient way to tell my story, completing my task, and meeting the hard deadline.
What was awesome about the EAS undergraduate program was the wide diversity of classes. Classes that were more data based or theory based gave me a better understanding of research in atmospheric sciences, the instrumentation that meteorologists use, and a whole realm of knowledge about Earth sciences.
The class that most prepared me for my career was Dr. Jim St. John’s Synoptic Meteorology class. He wanted us to read weather maps and speak like a scientist. That class taught me quickly to analyze what was happening at every layer of the atmosphere and what it meant for the overall weather pattern ahead. It connected theory to reality. I learned to find my inner diaphragm and speak with confidence. That was the first time I spoke like a real meteorologist.
What has been the greatest challenge in your professional life so far?
In my first few years of being a broadcast meteorologist, there were a lot of adjustments I had to get used to: long and odd work hours, learning to block out shallow criticism from viewers, and discovering and growing into my true scientist self. It took a few years for me to really settle into who I am today.
What has been the most gratifying experience of your professional career so far?
The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017.
We held a community viewing event and gave away over 600 pairs of solar glasses. It was INCREDIBLE.
Families started arriving at 7 AM to watch the eclipse with us. Although DC only had just over 80% totality, the eclipse was still a sight that a lot of people get to experience only once or twice in their life.
I remember vividly walking through the crowds sitting in chairs and on the grass, looking through their glasses, peering at the sun, and just beaming with joy. Those raw smiles and awe across the kids’ faces—I had never seen that before.
We brought a community together to experience and enjoy science. They were inspired. For those two hours, they forgot about the bad in their lives, the political bickering in our country, and just lived in the moment.
That event reminded me why I chose this career. Science is incredible. I want to share my love of science with others!
What is the most important thing you learned while at Georgia Tech?
Nerd. It. Up.
Embrace your love of science or engineering or whatever you’re studying and OWN it. I love “geeking out” in my job. I love sharing my passion for meteorology and getting others excited about the weather.
What is a vivid memory of your time at Georgia Tech?
Nothing beats a fall morning walking down Techwood Drive past the Georgia Tech fire truck and old campers and into Bobby Dodd with your best friends! I met my husband at Georgia Tech, and we still watch the games from DC each weekend and try to make it back for a game every year or two.
My favorite football season was 2009. There were so many great games! We beat Clemson, UNC, and Virginia Tech all at home. The icing on the cake for me that season was traveling the weekend before finals with a group of my friends from Tech down to Tampa to watch the ACC championship. Seven of us crammed into an SUV and studied on the long trip down I-75.
The game was incredible! I remember Techies throwing oranges on the field right after the final snap finished and we knew we were going to the Orange Bowl! Skipping out on the extra study time was worth it to watch one of Tech’s strongest seasons since our 1990 Championship.
What advice would you give to current students at Georgia Tech?
You’re going to come across those especially difficult classes or assignments where you feel overwhelmed and maybe that you can’t accomplish it all. Take a breath. Break it down into smaller tasks, find the most efficient way to the best possible solution, and do it.
If you could have taken an alternative career path, what would you be doing instead?
I would love to still communicate science—a science educator or the leader of an educational series for kids. I say the next Bill Nye should be a woman!
What’s something about yourself that’s not obvious to your colleagues?
Last year, we adopted a rescue puppy from a local shelter. His name is Buzz! He’s a lovable, energetic, and intelligent German Shepherd/Labrador mix. We’re training him to try out as a receiver for the football team. We’ve taught him not to make friends with any bull “dawgs.”
If you could have dinner with any person from history, whom would you invite?
My grandfather Peter Boyduy. He died when my mother was young, so I never met him. He lived the American dream. He was born in Ukraine, escaped during World War II, and eventually immigrated across the Atlantic to America. He worked his way up, living the American Dream, and eventually was on the design team for the first Ford Mustang.
He’s the reason my mother aspired to become an engineer. My mother strongly believed in me and encouraged me to follow my STEM aspirations. I’d love to have just one conversation with him and get to know him.