UND researcher to head national weather lab

Gretchen Mullendore transitioning to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Gretchen Mullendore

Gretchen Mullendore, Chair of UND Atmospheric Sciences, has been selected to lead the Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Laboratory (MMM) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. UND archival image.

In January, Gretchen Mullendore will start her new position leading the Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Laboratory (MMM) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) at Boulder, Colo. But she doesn’t expect it to be the end of her relationship with UND.

Currently chair of the Atmospheric Sciences Department in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, Mullendore said she’s had many positive experiences at UND that will serve her well at NCAR, a national weather research lab funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Building strong research teams, mentoring and student outreach are some of the areas in which she expects to benefit from her 13-year career at the University.

“I have gained so much knowledge from my time here at UND,” Mullendore related. “One of the things I think is so terrific about UND and the College of Aerospace Sciences is that they’re really great about building terrific teams. To build a great team, you must bring in lots of different skills.

UND’s people

“There are great scientists and people with knowledge of high-impact learning, but also people with expertise in business, people with experience in the private sector, and also people with experience in policy and law. It takes all those people to translate great science into things that are impactful for the public,” she said.

In her new role with NCAR, Mullendore said she’ll be engaged in outreach to students and universities. Her experience with being mentored as a new researcher at UND has also taught her how to be a mentor.

“All these experiences have been really valuable,” she said. “I want to take these lessons to build a good team that can be impactful for the public and set up good career development opportunities for people. These are all things I’ve been prepped for at UND.”

Paul Lindseth

Paul Lindseth

Paul Lindseth, dean of Aerospace Sciences, called Mullendore “one of UND’s most accomplished faculty members” and said the school was proud that she’d been selected to lead the NCAR lab.

“Dr. Mullendore’s extensive background and accomplishments here at UND will serve NCAR extremely well,” he said. “Of course, we are definitely going to miss Gretchen in the Odegard School and at UND, but wish her all the best in this new, prestigious position.”

Debbie Storrs

“UND has had the privilege of Dr. Mullendore’s expertise in research and teaching for many years,” said Debbie Storrs, Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “She has been recognized for her teaching excellence at Founder’s Day, she has a strong research record and funding from NSF, and she has mentored many women interested in science.”

As director of NCAR’s MMM lab, Mullendore will be responsible for advancing the understanding of the meso- and microscale aspects of weather and climate, and to apply this knowledge to benefit society. She will also work closely with the NCAR Directorate to align her strategic direction for MMM with NCAR’s new strategic plan.

NCAR Director Everette Joseph referred to Mullendore as “stellar scientist” with leadership experience, a passion for mentoring and a commitment to supporting scientists from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“In particular, I welcome her academic experience serving the educational and pedagogical needs of rising scientists in non-R1 schools, which we hope to employ in strengthening NCAR’s partnerships with often underserved institutions, such as minority-serving institutions and colleges focused on undergraduate education,” he said.

Research focused on forecasts

Mullendore said the research on which she’ll be focused is aimed at helping meteorologists produce better weather forecasts that are useful to the public, whether it’s a farmer with thousands of acres of crops who wants to know if there’s going to be a freeze or people headed to work who want to know if they should take an umbrella.

Gretchen Mullendore with Mike Poellot, professor and former chair of UND’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. UND archival image.

“The way we’re trying to make improvements in weather forecasting is by looking into understanding how airflow near the surface works,” she explained. “How do big storms work – both summer and winter storms? What are the important drivers inside those storms? How are those not being represented in the forecast models, which are then translated into daily forecasts? We have a lot yet to improve. We want to make it better. We want to be doing a better job of forecasting.”

Mullendore said that she plans to continue partnering with UND because of all it has to offer NCAR and other national labs.

“I’d love to see those relationships strengthen and, hopefully, in my new role, I can help facilitate that,” she said. “For example, the relationships between the University of North Dakota and agriculture are really terrific and something we can learn from.”

Leaving the University will be a bittersweet experience for Mullendore.

“I will miss UND,” she said. “I’m really excited about this new opportunity, but I’m leaving a bunch of terrific colleagues.”