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BOULDER–Robert Serafin, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), an NCAR staff member since 1973 and director since 1989, will step down from his NCAR position at the end of April and will retire formally in February 2001. NCAR is now completing the final phase of an international search for its next director.

As director, Serafin oversaw an NCAR budget of about $100 million annually and a staff of 800, including over 100 Ph.D. scientists. The National Science Foundation and other U.S. agencies fund the center, which is operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a consortium of 63 North American universities.

As director, Serafin guided NCAR during a period of emphasis on global change research. “We are now acknowledged as having one of the world’s best climate models,” he says. NCAR’s model is used to study climate and climate variability and to assess the effects of climate change. In the last decade, NCAR also made major contributions to understanding ozone depletion, improving weather forecasting, and learning how solar storms are generated. During this period, NCAR’s programs and staff grew by 25%. Major research facilities, including aircraft, radars, and supercomputers, were significantly enhanced.

Serafin is especially pleased with the increased interdisciplinary nature of research at NCAR and with the center’s efforts to improve K-12 science education. He supported LEARN (Laboratory Experience in Atmospheric Research at NCAR), which enhanced atmospheric science in middle-school educational programs in Colorado and in other states. The second of LEARN’s three-summer internships brought teachers from rural areas around Colorado to NCAR for hands-on demonstrations. To conclude the 1999 summer program, the NCAR mobile weather van visited eastern plains communities in Colorado from Sedgwick to Kim, launching data-gathering balloons and informing local citizens about weather research.

Locally Serafin led NCAR as a partner in the construction of the Boulder Research and Administrative Network, an 11-mile fiber-optic network connecting the major facilities of UCAR, NCAR, the University of Colorado, the city of Boulder, and the Boulder laboratories of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The $1.1 million venture is one of only a handful of high-speed dedicated telecommunications and data networks in the country.

“It’s been hard work. You never stop working–weekends, vacations, whatever,” he reflects, “but it’s been a great experience. I still relish the opportunity to go into the field and interact with researchers who are trying to learn more about the earth system. The advice I’d give young people is to embrace responsibility and opportunity.”

Recently Serafin was elected president of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). “When I came to NCAR, I never imagined that I might someday be its director,” says Serafin, “but I’m certainly happy that I have had the opportunity. Now I’m looking forward to working more closely with the AMS for the next few years.”

The AMS was established in 1919 as a scientific and professional organization serving atmospheric and related sciences. Based in Boston and Washington, D.C., it has grown to 13,000 members worldwide. The society publishes scientific journals, books, and other educational materials and conducts scientific and technical conferences and symposia around the globe. The AMS also offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to support students pursuing careers in the atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences. Serafin will serve the AMS as president-elect in the year 2000 and will begin a one-year term as president in January 2001. As president he will chair the AMS council, the society’s governing body, and will represent the AMS nationally and internationally.

Robert Serafin: Biographical Information

A native of Chicago, Serafin earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. from the Illinois Institute of Technology, all in electrical engineering, with a doctoral specialty in radar meteorology. He began his career at Hazeltine Research Corporation in Plainview, New York, where he worked on the design and development of high-resolution radar systems. After ten years at the Illinois Institute of Technology and IIT Research Institute, he joined NCAR in 1973 to lead NCAR’s Doppler radar meteorology development, as manager of the Field Observing Facility. In 1983 Serafin became director of the Atmospheric Technology Division, which is responsible for all of NCAR’s observational research and research-support facilities, used by scientists in universities and laboratories throughout the world. In 1989 he was appointed director of NCAR.

The holder of three patents, Serafin has published more than 50 technical and scientific papers. He established the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology and was its coeditor for several years. He has served on several National Research Council panels and committees and chaired the NRC committee on the National Weather Service modernization. He also chairs a committee that advises the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Weather Service on the nation’s Doppler weather radar system. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the AMS, and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.