Samantha Ballard – Phd Student Shares Her Coding Journey


Samantha Ballard Coding Journey

I am a PhD Student at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in the department of Applied Marine Physics. I received a B.S. in meteorology from Penn State.

My research focus is air-sea interaction in the coastal environment, specifically utilizing satellite remote sensing. My PhD research primarily focuses on scientific coding which is a compilation of image processing, back-end algorithm development, data science and modeling.My PhD project is called Coastal Land Air Sea Interaction (CLASI) . I share STEM communication on my Instagram @air.sea.sam as well as daily weather forecasts!

Inspiration to code:

I began coding during my undergraduate degree in meteorology (weather or atmospheric science) at Pennsylvania State University about 7-8 years ago. The fields of atmospheric and ocean science are heavily involved in coding through data analysis and modeling. I was inspired to code to make advancements in my field!

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Initial challenges faced while learning coding

I remember struggling when I first started out with applying concepts we learned in class to real world applications, especially when I was on my own without the instructor. Google helped me a lot when I was stuck and didn’t know how to continue, as I progressed my problem solving skills progressed as well.

What she did to make her coding journey interesting ?

If you are learning to code in classroom setting, ask for help from your instructor and other students! If you are teaching yourself google is your best friend, Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow are great tools for help. Keep a notebook, like a lab notebook, to write down your plan of attach, what you struggle with that day but also your accomplishments!

Professional Experience

Samantha Ballard -

My research group collects satellite images (with a focus on civilian synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and electro-optical images) via satellite-receiving ground stations in Miami for government and private agencies during natural disasters (like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc.) and for target detection (ships, pollutants, etc.).

The goal of my PhD project at the University of Miami is to better understand the coastal environment in Monterey Bay, California, interactions of wind and waves, and small-scale features such as boundary layer rolls, gravity waves and wind fronts using synthetic aperture radar images and other in-situ data from coastal towers, ships, radisondes (weather balloons), tidal stations, polarimetric cameras, etc. to improve the Navy’s Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction forecast model (COAMPS).

I have received my bachelor’s of science in atmospheric science from the Pennsylvania State University. I have experience collecting field data during a 10-day research cruise around the islands of Palau installing and collecting data from a X-band nautical radar (and other instruments) to measure currents, waves and ocean topography.

The programming languages I use most frequently are Python and Matlab but I also have experience with IDL from my space weather internship with University of Colorado Boulder developing an algorithm to automatically detect coronal mass ejections and FORTRAN/Python from my internship with the National Weather Service creating a climatological winter storm case study.

I have also held an internship with The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) developing a P-Band wind retrieval algorithm for an airborne radar called EcoSAR using Python.

Are Communication Skills Important?

Communication skills are definitely important for an programmer, specifically a scienfitic programmer. It is important for programmers and scientists to be able to communicate their code, results, etc. to persons of interests. The ultimate goal of programming is to improve our quality of life, it is our job to engage peope and get them excited about our work

So this was the coding journey of Samantha Ballard. Hope it inspires you to start coding right away without wasting any time. Stay tuned for more stories likes this and if you would like to share yours then contact us :)