Karen Kosiba

photo of Karen Kosiba

  • MS in Physics (2002); MAT in Teacher Education (2003)
  • PhD from Purdue University
  • research scientist at the Center for Severe Weather Research (Boulder, CO)

My Profession

"I'm a research scientist at the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado. I study tornadoes and hurricanes and other sorts of small-scale weather, work with a mobile radar facility funded by the National Science Foundation, and help provide that facility to the atmospheric science community.

"When I was at Miami as a grad student, I did research with now retired physics professor Christopher Church doing tornado vortex modeling, which was so interesting that it made me want to get out in the field to collect data and not be in a lab or office. I learned a lot about tornadoes and tornado vortex dynamics during that time, so when I started looking to get my doctorate, I wanted to make sure I could continue those research opportunities. I went to Purdue University, where I often worked with mobile radars during tornado seasons and other severe weather projects.

"I applied a lot of my laboratory modeling research at Miami to numerical modeling of tornadoes. At some point during my doctoral studies, I started working at the Center for Severe Weather Research, which is a small but growing company. I'm looking at how tornadoes form, and with more developments in radar I'm hoping to look into other radar technology projects as well. It was nice to get in at the beginning of this company and have an influence on the way some things happen!"

My Miami Experiences

"I've always liked the natural world and explaining how things work, and it seemed like no matter what I chose that major would serve me very well so that's why I went with physics. When I received my bachelor's degree in physics from Loyola University in Chicago, I knew it was a good background but didn't know at all what I wanted to do with it.

"I really loved the Department of Physics at Miami, and there were several areas of graduate physics research I was interested in. Both the professors and the students gave me a strong sense of community, where we tried to lift each other up and make sure everyone succeeded. It was a really nurturing and supportive environment to learn physics and grow up.

"Miami has given me the foundation for my PhD: the background knowledge and methodology, the laboratory experiences, and being able to communicate with and educate people. These days I work with a lot of interns, both undergraduate and graduate students, so my own experiences help me explain my work to them on a fundamental level."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Physics is a broad major that gives you a lot of basis to do things, especially in a changing technological world. There are so many other things besides working in a lab you can do while studying physics, because it involves all these physical principles. You're learning engineering, coding, and the fundamentals of how things work — all of which is applicable in a lot of things people want to do these days, whether you want to be an engineer or a patent lawyer. Physics can set people up for almost any career that they could possibly want."

Advice to Students

"My advice is to get all the skills that you can get: coding skills, communication skills, a good foundation in physics, an understanding of technology. Focusing on all those broad areas will lead people into paths that have a lot of opportunities."

[March 2019]