From New York City weather forecaster on Fox News to doctoral student at Central Michigan University to adventurer on an Antarctic expedition, meteorologist Maria Molina is harnessing the winds of change.
Molina left New York in 2016 to pursue a Ph.D. in earth and ecosystem science at CMU, but over the horizon was something she couldn't have predicted: being chosen for a monthlong expedition to Antarctica with women of science from around the world.
In November, Molina found out she was accepted into Homeward Bound, an initiative launched in December 2016 to create a global network of women with backgrounds in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) to help influence environmental policy.
"What drew me was the opportunity to really dive into research that I wanted to explore." — Maria Molina
Molina will be the only woman from Michigan among the 70-some participants on the self-funded trip. While her itinerary hasn't been ironed out, past trips have focused on building leadership.
"I'm really looking forward to the opportunities I'll have to interact with these like-minded women with such diverse skills and backgrounds, and sharing research and leadership experiences," she said.
Molina's interest in the environment and its forces and changes brought her to Central.
"What drew me was the opportunity to really dive into research that I wanted to explore, which is seasonal forecasting of tornados, hailstorms and severe thunderstorm activity across the United States," she said.
She also likes the interdisciplinary aspect.
"Some of my classmates work in geochemistry, an area that I have just very basic knowledge of," she said. "It's been interesting to learn their research process and how they go about their work."
She's even been able to contribute to some of their research.
"It's a great opportunity that I had not considered before and probably wouldn't have gotten at other universities," she said.
Her main focus has been collecting and analyzing climate and other weather data, "something I was very intimidated by before I started the program. But I put my heart into it."
Her academic journey has been guided by her faculty advisor, John Allen, who also was her advisor when she was getting her master's degree at Columbia University and who last year told her about Homeward Bound.
While she's unsure of exactly what she would like to do after graduation, she would like it to involve collaborative research. She said her CMU experience has opened up opportunities that she had not considered before.
"Being here has helped me believe in myself, that I can be a research scientist. I didn't think I was that capable before," she said. "That speaks strongly of the environment here."