NOAA meteorologist helps save lives one storm at a time

Tuesday - 6/18/2013, 12:00pm EDT

Mark DeMaria, supervisory meteorologist, NOAA

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Over three decades, the work of of Mark DeMaria has helped communities and first responders get ready for severe storms.

As the supervisory meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Satellite Applications and Research in Fort Collins, Colo., DeMaria has pioneered models to predict the path and intensity of hurricanes.

"In my view, Dr. DeMaria has contributed more to improving hurricane forecasting through applied research than anyone of this generation," said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center.

Mark DeMaria, supervisory meteorologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Center for Satellite Applications and Research

For his work, the Partnership for Public Service named DeMaria a finalist for the 2013 Service to America Medals in the Career Achievement category.

DeMaria was recently interviewed on In Depth with Francis Rose. He also answered the following questions about himself and his career in the federal government.

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Listen, Consolidate, Implement

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?
In the early part of my career I worked closely with a NOAA scientist at the Hurricane Research Division, Dr. Katsuyuki (Vic) Ooyama. He had great scientific insight and developed one of earliest successful computer simulations of a hurricane. Vic told me not to accept everything that was described in the scientific literature, especially if it was in reference to an earlier work, but to try to work things out for myself. Some of my best research resulted from trying to understand existing theories and then explaining why they sometimes failed when applied in real world situations.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My biggest role model is Isaac Newton. He developed mathematical formulations of the basic laws of physics, which are the foundation for meteorology and computer weather forecasting. He did this at a time when the mathematics needed for these theories was not fully understood, such as calculus, so he helped to develop those along the way.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?
"Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut. This is an old novel that I have read before, but it is one of my favorites. Next I will probably read something by Carl Hiaasen. His books are about crazy things that happen in South Florida, which are very entertaining. I grew up in Miami and still travel there a lot on business, so I can relate to his books.

The Career Achievement Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a gallery of all the Sammies nominees here.