Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 16, 2014

Hampton prepares to intern at NASA

WKU junior studying meteorology

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — Tori Hampton has long been interested in weather. The passion developed after she survived a tornado in 1998 that ripped her house apart.

“That really impacted me as a kid,” she said.

Still, the Western Kentucky University junior from Metcalfe County didn’t initially consider meteorology – the science of atmosphere and the weather – as a possible career choice. That changed, however, and now Hampton is preparing to strengthen her credentials through an internship with NASA.

“I’ve always had a passion for weather. It’s just that no one really told me about it as a career,” she said.

To her, a meteorologist was someone who presented the weather on television.

“I never wanted to be on TV,” she said. “That’s why I never pursued it. But when I realized there were so many different options, I was like, ‘OK, I want to look into this.’”   

As a WKU Honors College student, she took an honors meteorology course and loved it.

“I decided that was the path I needed to take and I haven’t regretted the decision so far,” she said.

Hampton recently learned she had been awarded an internship with NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program.

“It started when my adviser sent out an email to all of the meteorology majors. He does that every so often with internships and it kind of piqued my interest,” she said. “I filled it out, not thinking I would get it.”

The internship is an eight-week, all-expenses-paid research program at the University of California at Irvine. She will be one of 32 participants in the program, but the only one from Kentucky.  

Hampton is hoping she will get to do atmospheric research, because she is most familiar with it.

“I’m in the honors college and they require us to do some research,” she said. “I’ve been doing some research with the [Kentucky] Mesonet and that’s going to become my thesis later on.”

Hampton was speaking in March at her alma mater, Metcalfe County High School, about WKU when she learned she had been awarded the internship.

“I was just extremely shocked and excited at the same time,” she said.

Her father, Michael, said he thinks that overall the internship will be a great opportunity for her.

“I’m very proud,” he said, adding his daughter has worked very hard throughout her education to achieve many things. “This is just another step forward that she can be an asset to her community and to the state of Kentucky. It’s outstanding they would select someone from such a small town as Edmonton to be part of such a large organization.”

With Kentucky Mesonet, Hampton has been studying weather stations in Metcalfe and Cumberland counties, trying to figure out why the stations register three-degree differences during the night.

So far, her conclusion is that the weather station in Cumberland County is at a lower elevation than the one in Metcalfe County, so it is more susceptible to cold air.

“All of the classes I’ve taken have dealt with air and the atmosphere,” she said. “I think that would be the one I could contribute the most to.”

Hampton hopes the internship will lead to a job with NASA. If it doesn’t, it will at least give her the opportunity to establish connections.

“I think that having this research experience will really open a lot of doors for me as far as grad school is concerned,” she said.

Hampton would like to land a job after graduating from college, but if she doesn’t, she’s prepared to go to graduate school.

“I would really like to get a job right out of college, just working for either a government sector, either the National Weather Service or like a national park somewhere,” she said. “I know a lot of airports have meteorologists on staff. I would love a job like that where I could forecast or just do some kind of consultation type of thing.”

She’s also given the possibility of becoming a meteorology professor at WKU some thought.

Hampton has not decided what she will study if she goes to grad school.

“I don’t know that I would study in meteorology. I know my adviser, he got a bachelor’s in meteorology and went to grad school in philosophy,” she said. “It’s pretty much open to whatever you want. That’s something that is still pretty much up in the air.”