Meet Valerie Smith
Space Weather Prediction Center
Why does your work for NOAA matter?
We provide 24-hour coverage of space weather, sending alerts and forecasts when
space weather could impact technological systems, including satellites, power grids,
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I learn something new every day. A few of the guys here that have worked space
weather 20-plus years say the same thing. That's a refreshing thought.
Where do you do most of your work? In a lab? In field studies?
Most of our time is spent in the Space Weather Forecast Center, also known as "The
Fish Bowl" because we're flanked by a huge glass wall.
What in your lab could you not live without?
Computers, hands down. There are 30 monitors and three flat-screen TVs in the
forecast center to display all the data we need to do the job.
If you could invent any instrument to advance your research and cost were no object, what
would it be? Why?
I would have to say that Rob Steenburgh, another forecaster, had the best idea: A radar
that would show a transient or coronal hole as it approached Earth. Our timing would
be amazing if we had that. Right now we have one "buoy" only one million miles away
from Earth. That's very close when the total distance from the Sun to Earth is 93 million
miles. We would like to be able to "see" what's coming earlier.
When did you know you wanted to pursue science?
Before going into the Air Force, I went through some testing that identified my strongest
skills as in science and mechanics.
What's at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in
Research papers on the specific topics that interest you. You'll begin asking more and
more questions about how things work the way they do. The more you learn, the more
curious you'll be.
And how about a personal favorite book?
For science or pleasure? I don't read full books on scientific topics; it takes too long to
get the answer I want. I read magazines and search the internet for articles.
For pleasure, I just finished reading the Harry Potter series and am debating on whether
I want to start reading Lord of the Rings or Dan Brown's 'Code' series.
What part of your job as a NOAA employee did you least expect to be doing?
Do you have an outside hobby?
Reading and exploring Colorado. I relocated here for the job only a year ago and there's
so much to see and do in Colorado. It's amazing here!
What would you be doing if you had not become a scientist?
A computer scientist.
Who is your favorite historical scientist and why?
Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to be awarded