A role model for African-American girls who wish to be a meteorologist.
Georgia Tech taught her to never give up; success comes with hard work and determination.
When faced with a tough hurdle, Lauren Merritt reminds herself that she earned two degrees from Georgia Tech. If she could do that, she can take anything the world hurls at her.
After graduating from Parkview High School, in Lilburn, Georgia, Lauren earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, graduating in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Now Lauren Reaves, she revels in the joy of working at the National Weather Service in Atlanta and being a role model to young African-American girls who wish to be a meteorologist like her.
What is your average workday like?
On any day, I analyze the atmosphere to understand the main weather threats for the day and coming week.
I launch and monitor a weather balloon. It goes up into the atmosphere attached to a weather instrument called a radiosonde, which collects weather data through the atmospheric column.
I monitor the radar for storms that may become strong or severe and require a warning, send out weather products from the office, and work with the public and local or state government officials to answer weather-related questions.
I may also produce a seven-day forecast or forecasts for airports around the state.
What I enjoy most is knowing that what I do actually makes a difference and that even on the hardest and longest days at work we are always working to save lives.
How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your current position?
Georgia Tech taught me how to adapt. I dealt with so many new and different experiences at Tech that I was well-prepared for whatever the world threw at me.
Two professors made a huge impact on my career path: my former advisor and professor, Dana Hartley, and my former mesoscale meteorology professor and research advisor, James Belanger. Both of them truly cared about their students’ well-being. They made sure we learned what we needed to succeed.
What has been the greatest challenge in your professional life so far?
Being underestimated has been tough. I’m often discounted because I am the youngest in the office and am at an early stage in my career. I’ve overcome this hurdle by proving that I can perform at the same level as my older peers.
What has been the most gratifying experience of your professional career so far?
At an outreach event in a school, a girl told me she wanted to be a meteorologist. But because she had never seen a meteorologist who looked like her, she didn’t think she was capable of becoming one. It was gratifying to know that I made a difference in her life just by speaking to her class and inspiring her to follow her dream.
What is the most important thing you learned while at Georgia Tech?
Never give up.
The challenges I encountered at Georgia Tech caused me to struggle at times. But Tech showed me year after year that with hard work and determination I could get through and graduate.
Now, I always tell myself if I got through two degrees at Georgia Tech, I can get through anything else life throws at me!
What is a vivid memory of your time at Georgia Tech?
My first football game performing with the Georgia Tech Marching Band in the Georgia Tech Colorguard was both nerve-wracking and exciting.
I remember getting ready with my teammates in the dorms and then walking to library to start our warmups. As we marched down Freshman Hill, Georgia Tech fans were screaming from the sidewalks.
I was so nervous but also so excited for my first real college football game day! From cheering in the stands with our gold pom-poms, to performing at half time and seeing my friends cheering me on, it was a day to remember.
What advice would you give to current students at Georgia Tech?
First: NEVER give up. Every student will struggle at some point at Georgia Tech. What’s important is working through the struggle and to not give up no matter how hard it may seem.
Second: ALWAYS stay on top of your work. Start any assignment as soon as you get it. I reduced so much of my stress by doing this. Even if I couldn’t finish the assignment, I was already ahead. By the time the assignment came due, I was finished.
If you could have taken an alternative career path, what would you be doing instead?
I would have pursued a computer science or an engineering degree, hoping that either one would intersect with meteorology.
What’s something about yourself that’s not obvious to your colleagues?
I would be willing to go back to school to get a degree in mechanical engineering. Being able to design and build weather equipment and work on the latest weather technologies would definitely be something I am interested in.
If you could have dinner with any person from history, whom would you invite?
I would invite June Bacon-Bercey, the first African-American woman to earn a meteorology degree. An accomplished engineer and meteorologist, she worked for the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She was on television as meteorologist for NBC, and she was the first black woman to earn the American Meteorological Society’s Seal of Approval for broadcast meteorologists.
I would like to hear her story from the beginning, from the degrees that she earned, to her engineering work, working for the NWS and NOAA, and how she brought more black women to meteorology and other geophysical sciences.
Her insights would help me with the day-to-day challenges of being a black woman in the atmospheric sciences.