UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

June 2003

Random Profile:

Eric Gilleland

Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Eric Gilleland, an associate scientist in the Research Applications Program.

Vital statistics: After getting a bachelor’s in math from CU, Eric thought he would pursue a career as an actuary. But when he went to actuarial school at Arizona State University, he found himself fascinated by classes in statistics. “I loved statistics because I could see right away that it had diverse uses,” he says. “For anything that I would want to study in the future, I could use these skills.” Changing his career direction, Eric got a master’s in statistics at Arizona State, and now he’s close to earning his Ph.D. in statistics at Colorado State University. Holding down a full-time job in RAP while finishing his doctorate means working seven days a week, but Eric enjoys the pace. “I don’t mind coming in on weekends,” he says. His doctorate, by the way, is a study of statistical models of Environmental Protection Agency measurements of ground-level ozone in the eastern United States—an outgrowth of a Geophysical Statistics Project team he worked on that looked at optimal sites for measuring ozone.

A multidivisional guy: Eric has been with UCAR in one capacity or another since 1998, when he was brought on board as part of a Geophysical Statistics Project team studying the dry bias in radiosonde data collected in 1992–93 during TOGA COARE (the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Program’s Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment). He has had a remarkable run since then of working in different divisions. The original dry bias study was a collaborative project with ATD in CGD offices, and Eric has subsequently worked on projects with ESIG and CGD scientists. Now he’s an associate scientist in RAP, and he just went full time this spring. “I’m trying to get through all the divisions,” he says with a laugh.

Looking at extremes: One of Eric’s major projects has been writing software for ESIG’s “extremes toolkit”—part of NCAR’s Weather and Climate Impact Assessment Science Initiative. The goal is to help scientists analyze patterns of extreme weather events. For example, a researcher might look into whether major flood events in a particular region are occurring with greater frequency or in cycles. Eric is also lending a hand on a CGD project studying cycles of tropical volcanic eruptions. His assignment at RAP, just getting under way, is to compare ceiling and visibility forecasts with actual observations to gain insights into what types of improvements can be made to forecasting models.

A different language: When he wants to rest his mind from the rigors of atmospheric research, Eric turns to an unusual hobby: studying Frisian. This is an endangered language spoken only in the province of Fryslan in the Netherlands, the Frisian Islands between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and a few spots in Germany. Eric has no intention of visiting any of these places, but he has developed a fascination for Frisian because it is the closest living language to English that is distinctly not English. He came across the language while studying French (the only other language he speaks), and he says there is a reason for his interest. “When I learned French, I learned a lot about English,” he says. “This is another way of learning where English words come from.” He’s gotten a bit of help from Frisian speakers, including a Netherlands rock group that sent him a compact disc of their Frisian songs. People who speak the language, Eric says, “are pretty blown away that somebody in the United States would even know what Frisian is.”

When he’s almost 64: Not surprisingly for a native Boulderite, Eric also likes to stay in shape. He runs in the Bolder Boulder and other races, and he also lifts weights. His weightlifting partners, both in their 50s and about a generation older than Eric, are an inspiration. “When I get to be a lot older,” he says, “I want to be able to do these things.” •David Hosansky

Also in this issue...

NCAR again hires a diverse cadre of young scientists

Learning to lead

“I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help You”

Spring Fling

RAP wins NASA award

Delphi Question: Stolen car

A new rapid-scan radar for fast-changing storms

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