When Mike Coniglio
’97 looked up to the snowy skies over Western New York
as a child, he would never have been able to forecast the career path ahead of
The National Severe Storms Laboratory research meteorologist
was one of just 100 recognized nationwide with the Presidential Early Career
Award for Scientists and Engineers. The award is the highest honor bestowed by
government to this group of professionals.
While his earliest weather phenomena fascination was with
lake-effect snow, Coniglio’s primary research today revolves around tornadoes
in Wyoming and Oklahoma, where the laboratory is based.
“It started with the snow,” he said. It kept him in Upstate
New York, where Professor Robert Ballentine became a mentor.
“He made sure I was up on the latest opportunities for
graduate school and research opportunities,” said Coniglio, who went on to
master's and doctoral studies at Oklahoma University.
The presidential award recognizes both innovative research
and a commitment to public outreach. Coniglio and his staff essentially use their
data and analysis to help forecasters make better predictions about severe
Of course, that involves some field work that the young
scientist relishes. In fact, he even has worked with some scientists who
appeared in a PBS special about storm chasing that Coniglio viewed as a youngster
and remembers well.
“Once you see something like a tornado and experience that
in person, it leaves an incredible impression. [It makes me] want to learn more
about it and understand it,” Coniglio said.
— Shane M. Liebler
Upper photo: Michael Coniglio ’97 is accompanied by
President Barack Obama’s Science Adviser John Holdren, left.
Lower photo: Coniglio and his wife, Kimberly.
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