Eric Roy became a Weather Channel addict at an early age.
One memory stands out: He was tracking a supercell thunderstorm in western Massachusetts when it spawned a tornado.
“I’m sitting there during dinner and watching a tornado crossing the Connecticut River,” he says. “On TV, everyone’s saying, ‘Get inside, get inside!’ And I'm running outside with my laptop and watching the radar and the sky.”
That tornado, in June 2011, carved a path through the city of Springfield and other towns in western and central Massachusetts, killing three people. Roy was never in danger – he grew up in Lowell – but the sheer power of the storm left a lasting impression and got him hooked on meteorology.
Roy arrived at UMass Lowell as a meteorology and atmospheric science major and an Honors College student – and with 26 college credits he’d earned by taking AP classes at Lowell High School, along with dual-enrollment classes at Middlesex Community College and UMass Lowell. Instead of using those credits to graduate early, he decided to add a second major in math.
He also arrived at UML with a $4,000 Immersive Scholarship, which paid him to do research with Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Prof. Daniel Obrist the summer after his freshman year. He helped out at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Mass., measuring how mercury pollution in the atmosphere interacts with forest ecosystems. He also worked back in the lab, coding and analyzing the data.
“It was really good; it was a well-rounded experience,” he says.
He continued working in Obrist’s lab sophomore year and presented a poster at the national American Meteorological Society Conference in Boston in January 2020.
And, with encouragement from Ph.D. student Tyler Harrington, he began applying for internships with the National Weather Service (NWS) and other agencies within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
He got the William M. LaPenta NWS Student Internship, which allowed him to do research – virtually, during the COVID-19 pandemic – with NOAA’s Air Resource Laboratory in summer 2020. Roy monitored and modeled the spread of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, a critical concern for airline pilots.
With Harrington’s encouragement, he also applied for – and got – the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, which not only provides financial support, but the opportunity to work as a NOAA intern in the summer of 2021.
It’s another step on Roy’s path to a Ph.D. and, he hopes, a job with a company that does applied research, such as one that figures out the best locations for power-generating windmills.
“I can’t say enough good things about UML and how they’ve helped me,” he says.
As president of the student chapter of the American Meteorological Society, he wants to help make other undergraduates aware of similar opportunities. So he and vice president Nathan Coram organized a series of online professional development seminars, in which alumni and researchers with government agencies talk about their work and career paths. They also helped to organize a mini career fair.
“We want to make these opportunities clearer for people: where to get them, when they should get them, and why they should get them,” Roy says.