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September 2005

Random Profile: Vickie Johnson

Roger and Karen

Vickie Johnson. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Every other month,
Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Vickie Johnson, in COMET.

A jack-of-all-trades: When asked what her position in COMET involves, Vickie laughs. "It's complicated," she says. Vickie does a bit of everything: manages COMET's outreach program, designs educational materials, handles general project management, and writes proposals.

Vickie came to COMET in 1992, when she was hired as the group's outreach program manager. The outreach program awards grant money from the National Weather Service to university researchers and students doing applied research in forecasting. "It's a neat program because it really is taking research and putting it into practice," Vickie says. "And students like it because they see their work being used by forecasters."

She says that one of her favorite things about managing the outreach program is interacting with researchers and students in the university community. "I give them money so they like me," she jokes. "It sort of makes you feel like Santa Claus."

Vickie does instructional design for COMET, having worked on Hurricane Strike!, a fog forecasting course, and a module about how the National Airspace System works. She completed a doctorate in instructional technology in 2000 after years of focusing on atmospheric science. "I like the challenge of doing something that is a new experience for me," she says.

She also writes NSF proposals and COMET reports, in addition to handling general project management for the distance education modules. "I tend to be an organized person, so that's part of what I like about project management," she says. "And we have a great group of people in COMET, so it's fun to see how things come together."

From chairlift to laboratory: Vickie was introduced to atmospheric research when she was a sophomore at the University of Wyoming and found herself riding a chairlift with a friend of her father's who happened to be the head of the school's atmospheric sciences department. He offered her a job in his lab, which she accepted. In the beginning, she counted and measured drops of melted snowflakes. Later she moved on to ice crystals. "The crystals were a lot more interesting than the drops," she recalls.

Despite her budding interest in atmospheric science, Vickie majored in international studies with minors in French and political science. After graduation, she worked in the university's cloud physics lab and contemplated law school. "Then my dad told me I'd make a terrible lawyer," she laughs.

The road to Boulder: With the encouragement of family and professors, Vickie decided to pursue a master's degree in atmospheric sciences even though it required taking all the math classes she'd skipped in college. She was one of the first female graduates from her program at the University of Wyoming.

After graduation, an acquaintance from grad school named Tim Spangler offered Vickie a job as a consultant in Salt Lake City. She took him up on it and held the position for five years before moving to Arizona to work at a nuclear power plant. She eventually found herself working for Tim again at an air quality company, this time in San Diego. After Tim became director of COMET, he hired Vickie to manage the outreach program.

"Tim just can't get along without me," she jokes.

Fairview football fan: "I live with my two favorite men: my husband and son," Vickie says. Her son, Brent, plays football at Fairview High School. Vickie is the team's official Webmaster. "A lot of my life is taken up by football," she says.

When she's not watching Brent's football games, Vickie likes to ski, play tennis, hike, and cross-stitch. She took a rowing class last year since she'd never tried a team sport. She's also interested in genealogy and has been documenting her family's roots back to 18th century Pennsylvania.

Vickie's husband runs a business as an air quality consultant, which involves some travel. The family took a "working vacation" to Guam and Palau a few years ago. They also visit Vickie's parents in Phoenix on a regular basis. "But now that we have a teenager we don't travel as much," Vickie says. "Getting our son through high school is the big project. By then, maybe I'll know the difference between inside and outside linebackers."

• by Nicole Gordon

Also in this issue...

UCAR family-friendly benefits rank at the top

New leadership for EOL

2005 Up-the-Hill Races

Random Profile: Vickie Johnson

NCAR's public face: Mesa Lab tour guides

Short Takes

Construction begins on CG-FL bike path

Delphi Questions

Hurricane Katrina Challenge

Just One Look


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