Enthusiasm for weather and aviation launches career

December 8, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Kenneth Brown was always interested in weather, and by high school, had identified meteorology as his chosen area of study. A conversation about the role of meteorology in aviation added aerospace engineering to his educational plans.  Kenneth Brown, December 2016 Dean's Medalist for School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning Kenneth Brown, December 2016 Dean's Medalist for the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning, has pursued two passions -- meteorology and aerospace engineering -- and is on his way to a career that integrates the two. Download Full Image

The two fields have complemented each other numerous times as he’s worked towards the two degrees at Arizona State University. Last spring, when Ronald Calhoun, professor and instructor of Brown’s Renewable Energy Engineering course, asked students to work in groups to develop projects in that realm, Brown proposed looking at whether El Niño — the warm Pacific water that impacts weather across the U.S. — tends to reduce the amount of sunlight available for solar power generation in Phoenix. 

A simple regression showed that there was, in fact, a statistically-significant relationship between El Niño conditions and reduced sunlight. 

“My professor suggested I develop this into a paper to be submitted to a research journal,” Browns said.

Reviewers suggested expanding the project, and Brown set to work gathering solar and climate data throughout the Southwestern United States, and will use mapping software to analyze the connection throughout the region.

As he graduates from ASU, he’s already started on the next phase; a position with an Arizona-based aerospace firm that launches rockets into space.

“My job title is Guidance Navigation and Control Engineer, but I work in the aerodynamics group,” Brown said.

“A goal with rocket launches is to reduce the uncertainty of the path that the rocket will take. Atmospheric conditions are a large area of uncertainty, so being able to model atmospheric conditions will be really helpful in the work I’ll be doing.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study aerospace engineering and meteorology? Did one happen before the other?

Answer: I was always passionate about meteorology. Then when I was in high school, a cousin of mine who works for an airline, doing flight routing, showed me a flight tracker display, that showed airplane tracks and also meteorological conditions. I realized that by doing majors in both meteorology and aerospace engineering, I could become involved in both these areas.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: First, I wanted to be far enough from home, but not too far! Then, looking at different options, I realized the sheer amount of programs available at ASU. At ASU I’d be able to study both meteorology and aeronautics, as well as be able to explore all kinds of other areas. As a freshman I took a psychology course — it didn’t change my idea of what I wanted to major in, but it was great to have that opportunity.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: In working on tornadoes, Dr. Cerveny, who leads the meteorology program within the geography degree, made the point that if, as a forecaster, you don’t do your job correctly, you could put people in danger. This drove home that I’d chosen an area of work that has a really significant impact on safety — human lives are at stake.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Find something you can be passionate about. It gives you the drive to work hard, and makes studying more fun.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Old Main Lawn, especially in the summer. Evaporative cooling keeps it cool!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would put the funding toward research in re-usable launch systems. This would reduce the cost to launch meteorological satellites, and could increase our ability to forecast dangerous weather conditions.

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


Full-time work doesn't deter ASU graduate's dreams

December 8, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Kwame Boahene, an outstanding graduating senior in liberal studies in Arizona State University's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, said the flexibility he found at ASU to complete many courses online drew him to the university. ASU liberal studies graduate Kwame Boahene Kwame Boahene excelled academically as a liberal studies major while working as a support engineer with a Mesa, Arizona, software company. He will begin ASU's Master of Social Work in January, to further his interest in community involvement. Photo courtesy of Kwame Boahene. Download Full Image

“I work full-time, 40-60 hours a week as a support engineer in a local software company in Mesa, so the ability to complete classes remotely was key,” he said.

Boahene, whose hometown is Syracuse, New York, started out as an information technology major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, expecting to focus in on computing and programming.

“While I enjoyed the 'Introduction to Engineering' course and got an 'A,' I quickly realized that my interests were actually much broader and it occurred to me to switch to liberal studies,” Boahene said. “The liberal studies major basically allowed me to take any upper-division courses I had interest in to complete my degree requirements.” 

The outstanding grades continued. He was recently inducted into Alpha Iota Sigma, the interdisciplinary studies national honor society, which requires maintaining a GPA above 3.8.

The liberal studies major appeals to many adult students who come to ASU with some life experience, some prior college credits, or both, said Brian McCormack, principal lecturer in leadership and interdisciplinary studies.

“Liberal studies students are really an amazing crowd!” McCormack continued. “In every lib studies class I teach there are usually at least half-a-dozen students who should already be in grad school!"

McCormack definitely puts Boahene, who took two core courses from him, in that group:

“Kwame was consistently amazing in all of his work. He was always generous in discussions, and he brought a wealth of experience and interesting ideas to everything he did.”

Boahene answered some additional questions about his experience at ASU and goals for the future. 

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: I plan to continue in my current job and start ASU's Master of Social Work online in January 2017. My real interests lie in community improvement; I hope to create opportunities for disadvantaged members of society and would like to start a non-profit charity in the next 10 years.

Q: What’s something you learned while studying at ASU that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: The history courses that I took really taught me things about the U.S. that I never knew. I realized that pretty much every ethnic group has had a very pronounced struggle in order to carve out their piece of the American Dream. I never understood how most of our immigrants were truly exploited until they amassed enough numbers on American soil to have their own communities and gain an economic base and some political clout.  

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would invest in energy and clean water solutions for developing countries that don't yet have these resources for all of their citizens. This basic step would greatly expand the opportunity available in these environments. I would also invest some of the money in creating a training institute to teach the construction trades in developing nations. 

Q: Did you have any favorite campus spots for studying or relaxing?

A: My two favorite spots where I do all my studying are on the first floor of Noble Library when it is sparsely populated, or level 1 of Hayden Library, because it has the most comfortable leather chairs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: Overall, I really enjoyed my time here. I think ASU is a great environment which encourages personal growth in students and has something for everybody. ASU is great because it offers more resources than any other university in terms of tutoring and receiving help, but the sheer size of the school encourages you to become academically self-sufficient and grow into a more confident, capable student and person in your time here. You can easily obtain all of the help you need here, but it is likely that you will outgrow the need to constantly use the available resources as you progress.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts