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Recently returned from a semester-long stint at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Advanced Study Program (ASP) Fellow, Song-Lak Kang, gained first-hand – first-time – experience teaching graduate students. The inaugural visiting scholar in a pilot program partnering National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) ASP post-doctoral Fellows with Howard University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Kang also had an opportunity to meet and work closely with scientists at Howard, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The teaching experience was invaluable, says Kang, who did not have the opportunity to teach classes while doing his PhD work at Pennsylvania State University. Teaching appealed to Kang as an untried challenge, but will also help with his future endeavors, as he is currently applying for university faculty positions. His classroom experience at Howard will be looked at positively by academic search committees when considering applicants for tenure-track positions.
“In addition to teaching, as a scientist at an early stage of my career, having a chance to speak at a variety of seminars and meetings at Howard and in the Washington, D.C. area were useful for gaining footholds for future research associations,” explains Kang. “Already, the meetings between myself and researchers at Howard University and the USDA have led to scientific collaboration.”
The exchange also proved to be a winning proposition for Howard University. Not only did the university gain a well-liked instructor, but both students and faculty had a chance to gain insights on many of the latest breaking ideas and results in meteorology as a result of Kang’s classes and seminars.
“Dr. Kang’s research expertise in turbulence, boundary layer processes, and mesoscale meteorology provided relevant and updated knowledge for both the classroom and ongoing research,” says Gregory Jenkins, chairperson of Howard’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Kang is an enthusiastic proponent of the effort, and as the initial program participant he gained valuable insights on both the benefits, as well as things future candidates might consider before taking part in the program. Among these latter: participate early on in the two-year ASP stint. Even though his four months at Howard was not included as part of his official 2-year ASP tenure, he left to teach at Howard near the end of his post-doctoral program and had only a short amount of time left after his return to NCAR to complete his ASP Fellow research requirements. Also, with a wife and school-aged daughter, family logistics proved challenging. Kang didn’t want to relocate his family to Washington, D.C. for just four months. A visit back to Colorado over the Thanksgiving holiday eased the family separation, but it is an issue he urges future participants in similar situations to consider.
The positives of the experience, beyond those described above, include an unprecedented level of exposure to others working in similar fields. Many of the ties Kang now has to the wider university and science community might not otherwise have occurred. Among the benefits of working and living in the nation’s capitol, was direct access to people working in the many national research institutions. Through Howard University, Kang developed a new cohort of colleagues in his field, having been introduced to researchers in other university departments including Physics and Astronomy, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemistry, and he now acts as an academic advisor to Mike Hicks, a Howard PhD candidate.
“I hope we can capitalize on this success and engage more Fellows in similar experiences, at Howard and other partner institutions,” says Maura Hagan, director of the Advanced Study Program. “This bridge between ASP and historically black colleges and universities provides an invaluable teaching tool for post-doctoral Fellows, and strengthens links between NCAR and the university community.”