The Secret Lives of Scientists (includes podcast)

The Secret Lives of Scientists is a limited-series podcast that invites experts to share how they started unconventional careers in different areas of science, and maybe even some of the wildest stories they have from the field.

The podcast is hosted by FIU communications and media student Taylor Gutierrez, who also discusses her journey to becoming a science journalist.

In the first episode of The Secret Lives of Scientists, podcast host Taylor Gutierrez shares her journey from chemistry student in high school to aspiring science journalist. She also interviews the podcast’s first guest, Florida International University Professor Hugh Willoughby.

While serving in the armed forces, Willoughby volunteered to fly a naval aircraft into a typhoon to study storm dynamics and intensity. From that moment on, he knew that meteorology would always be best studied from the air. Willoughby continued to fly for the next 30 years, studying some of the nation’s most dangerous hurricanes. He studied meteorology at the graduate level at University of Miami, and served as the Director of the Hurricane Research Division at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Professor Willoughby also spearheaded the meteorology program at FIU, inspiring hundreds of students to follow in his footsteps.

Professor Willoughby shares one of his most thrilling stories from his career as a flight meteorologist and exactly what scientists in this role can expect to see from up above. He also shares some insight on the field as technology advances and why science, especially meteorology, continues to be such an interesting field to explore, comparing it to René Magritte’s famous painting of “This is not a pipe.”

This episode dives into the story of the distinguished Dr. Chris Landsea, who serves as chief of the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami. Landsea’s work was essential in determining Hurricane Andrew’s status as a Category 5 hurricane when it made landfall in South Florida in 1992. But this guest is also important in the field of meteorology because he often challenges the status quo. Most meteorologists would agree that climate change has impacted storm intensity and frequency, but Dr. Landsea actually denies that it plays such a big role in these patterns, making him even more of an interesting guest on the podcast.

In this interview, the Miami-native meteorologist discusses how difficult it is to communicate hurricane forecasts to the public with complete certainty and accuracy despite advancing technology. He also suggests that the future of meteorological studies could be more closely related to marine studies as well. Listen as he describes the experience of flying above the ocean with waves so high they almost touched the plane.

In this episode of The Secret Lives of Scientists, meteorologist and cloud physicist Robert Black from the Hurricane Research Division at NOAA shares his story of studying atmospheric science far and wide, from the northern mountains of Canada to the southern tropics of Florida. After flying for 25 years through roughly 300 storms, he was one of the first meteorologists to document that hurricanes produce ice particles and electrical conductivity even though they form in the tropics.

This spirited scientist compares the experience of hurricane flying to rollercoaster rides, detailing the experience of being struck by lightning and trying to record data at the same time. Black also emphasizes the importance of this role in the field, as hurricane flyers paved the way for the numerical modeling done by researchers today. He sets the record straight that meteorologists are not just the reporters on television, but that the field is more courageous and mathematical than people would expect.

Taylor Gutierrez is a Cuban-American digital journalism student and intends to pursue a career as a multimedia journalist, combining her passions for writing and photography. Gutierrez currently works as a Communications Associate for FIU's Institute of Environment where she discusses issues within the field of environmental science. She hopes her writing will help bridge the gap in communication between media consumers and the scientific research community.