It’s January again – and 2013 already!

By Dr. Sundar A. Christopher –
Purchase Book through Wiley Press : Click here

January seems to come quicker and quicker each year. With that comes new beginnings, resolutions and hopefully steadfastness to review goals, vision statements, and finish what needs to be finished.

1. Review. To the student who just started graduate school it is important to reflect on the semester that just went by. How did you do in your classes? It is customary for the beginning student to take core or foundational classes so that a solid base can be built.  If you did well then continue to work on the core. If you had trouble then do not simply walk away and forget about those courses. They have a habit of haunting you. Seek out some basic books in the library. For example, if you had trouble with Holton’s book on Dynamic Meteorology then check out the classic Dynamic book my Panofsky. For those of you not in Atmospheric Science that previous statement could have been in Greek! I am pretty sure that for every complex graduate level book there is a undergraduate version available.

2. New graduate students probably got a bit of a break from their advisors. I had two students who started on their Master’s program in August 2012. My research expectations for them were low. All I wanted them was to get adjusted to graduate school, read a few papers and gather some tools necessary for research. In their second semester, my expectations are much higher. They have been told that already. So gear up for some research – especially if you are being paid as a Graduate Research Assistant.

3. The late graduate. Let me jump a step and talk to the graduate student who should have graduated with a M.S. or Ph.D. a year ago. For whatever reason you have been procrastinating or the excuse has been – My research is going no where! Either way, remember that you have to take charge and get going with the graduation plan. January is a good time to draw up concrete steps to finish. That means taking a piece of a paper and writing down items such as:

1. Finish draft of first paper by February 20.
2. Complete statistical analysis for Paper 2 by March 1.

Write it down and place it in a location that you HAVE to see every day. for me it was the wall directly above my computer.

Remember that without vision there is chaos and you will become a wanderer. Here is a warning: Your advisor is as frustrated as you because of your delay in wrapping up research. Do not let that fester this year!

3. For the student who is neither new or ready to graduate. It is still time to check up on the plans you made last year. If you hadn’t – now is a good time. Hone programming and writing skills, plan on converting some of your results to a peer reviewed journal. Read more papers. Mentor some younger students on how to read a journal paper. Think outside the box and analyze a new data set or come up with some innovative techniques.

Make sure that you read the chapter in my book that talks about – Casting a vision!

Have a great New year!

Remember : Sow well now to reap big later.


About Sundar Christopher

Dr. Christopher received his PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from Colorado State University in 1995. He also holds a Master's degree in Meteorology from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) and a Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. After completing his PhD, Dr. Christopher joined the faculty at SDSMT in the Department of Meteorology. In 1997, he joined the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at UAH as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2001 and was awarded tenure in 2002. He became a Full Professor in 2007. From August 2007-May 2014, he served as Associate Director of the Earth System Science Center. He served as Chairman of the Department of Atmospheric Science from 2010-2014. He successfully designed a Master's level graduate program in Earth System Science that educates and trains graduate students in new paradigms involving research to decision making. In 2014 he was appointed as Dean of the College of Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Dr. Christopher's research interests include satellite remote sensing of clouds and aerosols and their impact on air quality, environment, health, and global and regional climate. He works with numerous satellite data sets from polar orbiting and geostationary satellites, ground-based instruments, and aircraft data to study the earth-atmosphere system. He has published more than 100 peer reviewed papers in national and international journals including several review papers related to aerosols, air quality and the climate impacts of aerosols. He has served on numerous national and international committees including the Climate Change Science Panel and the GEWEX. Dr. Christopher enjoys teaching and has designed and developed undergraduate and graduate level courses with special emphasis on hands-on training using satellite data. He also designed a professional development course for graduate students and maintains a blog to help students navigate graduate school. In 2011 AGU published his book titled Navigating Graduate School and Beyond : A Career Guide for Graduate Students and a Must Read for every Advisor. Dr. Christopher has published extensively in national and international peer-reviewed journals and has also presented his work at major scientific conferences. He has been invited to speak at major venues including the World Federation of Scientists (Erice, Sicily), the United Nations Symposium in 2007 (Graz, Austria), the American Association for Aerosol Research, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), the United Nations Symposium on Space Applications, 2008 (Graz, Austria), the Osher Institute of Higher Learning, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, and various national and international universities (Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, Purdue University, Texas A&M, University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, Goddard Space Flight Center, Colorado State University, and others). He has won several million dollars in numerous grants and contracts from NASA, NOAA, and other federal agencies for studying earth-atmosphere processes. He has won several awards including the University Award for Research and Creative Achievement in 2006 and NASA New Investigator Award. He has published more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has served as an expert reviewer for the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). He is a citizen of the United States of America.
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