Jonathan Petters, PhD




  • BS Meteorology, North Carolina State 2000
  • MS in Atmospheric Science 2002, NC State
  • Phd in Meteorology, 2009, Penn State

Current job title: Data Management Consultant and Curation Services Coordinator

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?

As a child I read a lot of books on dinosaurs, the planets and stars, and on hurricanes and tornadoes. Turns out that the one university I applied at (North Carolina State) had a meteorology program. So that’s what I picked!

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.

As a junior I had an associate dean invite me for a meeting in which they showed me how to improve my resume content and format. One hour of this dean’s time led to a much better resume, and I thank them whenever I update it!

As a science policy fellow at the Department of Energy I had a few terrific (unofficial) mentors who gave me all sorts of useful advice on how to work in non-academic environments. Their guidance has helped me work much more effectively as a non-researcher! Academia is weird.

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?

There are two that come to mind that, as a graduate student, I reasoned that I wasn’t totally cut out for research. One was in my first year, sitting in a beautiful lake in Maine in August during a conference and listening to my advisor talk to a colleague about water molecules binding in the atmosphere. The other was backpacking with my other advisor in Oregon, and having him come out of the woods at 7AM talking about the awesome ideas he was ready to pursue when back home. Those two guys should get the research dollars, not me! Instead I turned to other careers within science; teaching and science policy.

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

As a study abroad student in the UK, I worked in a fish factory for a short time. If you want a ‘stay in science’ message for yourself, do something like that! I had to throw away some of my clothes; the smell never came out…

As an atmospheric science postdoc I cold emailed some researchers at the Environmental Defense Fund to see if there was any volunteer work I could do. Through this I ended up doing a side project on carbon cycling within kelp forest ecosystems! Quite outside my research in cloud modeling. This work helped bolster my application for the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, a program I highly recommend to open new doors for researchers.

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.

Honestly I keep my work rather separate from my hobbies…but I’m happy to say that a good run will often lead to solutions to thorny problems far quicker than staring at your desk.

Is there some advice you could you share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.

Informational interviews, informational interviews, informational interviews! They’re a great way to learn about career options and make connections with folks in fields. And most people you ask for these interviews will be happy to talk to a younger person about themselves 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s