Spotlight: Alumni

Mary Morris

When asked when she discovered her interest in science, Dr. Mary Morris says, “I don't ever remember not being interested! I've always been a curious person.”

Born and raised in Southeast Pennsylvania, Mary attended Penn State to study meteorology. It was while earning her bachelor’s that she “got hooked on remote sensing,” which led her to branch out and learn more about the subject.

“I had an internship with Professor Jasmeet Judge (Michigan alumna and director of the Center for Remote Sensing at the University of Florida), who pointed me to U-M Climate & Space. But to Professor [Chris] Ruf in particular, as his research is the interdisciplinary blend of things I'm interested in. And the CLaSP department was also appealing to me because of all the disciplines represented within the department.”

While here at CLaSP, Dr. Morris delved deeper into remote sensing, pulling details about hurricane and tropical storms from data gathered by various instruments. In 2014, she participated in NASA’s HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel).

The HS3 mission was created to investigate the processes that control hurricane formation and intensification. Two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) outfitted with meteorological instruments were sent to observe hurricanes and storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean basin. One of the UAVs carried an instrument called HIRad (Hurricane Imaging Radiometer), and Mary’s research focused on extracting the surface wind speed and rain observations from HIRad data.

Dr. Morris played a similar role in the recent NASA CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) mission, which launched a constellation of eight hurricane-tracking microsatellites in December of 2016. She developed algorithms that transformed CYGNSS wind speed observations into tropical cyclone data products for use by researchers and meteorologists. Her work on both the HIRad and CYGNSS missions became the common theme for her PhD dissertation this past December.

Mary is currently working as a postdoctoral scholar for Dr. Shannon Brown at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is developing algorithms for a satellite-based radiometer called the Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer (COWVR) due to launch next year.