Episode 5: Kendall Parks

Camryn Billett hosts NCAS-M’s podcast Students, Scientists, and Stakeholders. She is a senior communications major and computer science minor at Howard University. Billett participated in NCAS-M’s Experiential Training Summer Program for Rising Sophomores (ETSP) in 2019. Currently, she is working with NCAS-M as a communications fellow. 

Podcast host Camryn Billett speaks with her guest Kendall Parks about Parks’ experience in NCAS-M’s research fellowship in 2020. Rising junior at Jackson State University, Kendall Parks is pursuing his undergraduate degree in meteorology with a mathematics minor. Due to the pandemic, Parks virtually completed his NCAS-M research fellowship project about sea breeze convection in the Gulf Coast of Mexico. His future academic and career goals are earning his master’s degree and PhD, becoming a NOAA researcher, and becoming a weather forecaster. 


Camryn Billett: [00:00:00] Welcome to NCAS-M Students, Scientists and Stakeholders where you will learn all there is to know about NCAS-M. I’m your host and current NCAS-M fellow Camryn Billett. We are a student-led podcast designed to help you explore all educational and career opportunities available here at NOAA through NCAS-M. On this podcast, you’ll hear stories and conversations from students about their current and past experiences working here. You’ll get to understand our mission and hopefully come and join us. Today, we are joined by Kendall Parks, who is a rising junior at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Kendall, welcome.  

Kendall Parks: [00:00:51] Hello, good afternoon. I’m Kendall Parks, a rising junior meteorology major at Jackson State University in Mississippi.  

Camryn Billett: [00:01:00] Hi Kendall, and thank you for coming on to this podcast. 

Kendall Parks: [00:01:04] Well thank you for having me.  

Camryn Billett: [00:01:06] Of course, so you just mentioned that you are a rising junior at Jackson State University and your major is meteorology. So, you kind of answered my first question that I normally ask, but can I ask, how did you decide that you wanted to be a meteorology major?  

Kendall Parks: [00:01:23] Well, growing up, I had a lot of science courses and in the third grade, my teacher always used to take us outside and to study the clouds and she really made it interesting. So, I wanted to make an actual career of this when it became time to start deciding what I wanted to do with my life. 

Camryn Billett: [00:01:42] So you went into college being a meteorology major? 

Kendall Parks: [00:01:45] Yes.  

Camryn Billett: [00:01:46] Okay, so you went to college being a meteorology major. Do you have a minor? 

Kendall Parks: [00:01:50] Mathematics. 

Camryn Billett: [00:01:53] Oh, okay, and so how did you first hear about NOAA or NCAS-M?  

Kendall Parks: [00:02:00] Well, my first-year teacher always stressed that it was important to have a good GPA, so I could start doing these, um, research programs with NOAA and, um, getting internships with them and, um, applying to the different scholarships they supported. 

Camryn Billett: [00:02:23] Okay, and so, for those of you guys out there who don’t already know, Jackson State University is one of 13 of our partner institutions for NCAS-M. NCAS-M is designed to get students from minority institutions into the NOAA workforce and other science-related and meteorology workforces. 

So, um, you said that a teacher got you informed about NOAA and all the scholarships that it had and all the programs that it had. What is the first, I want to say, position or role that you had at NOAA?  

Kendall Parks: [00:02:58] Um, well, last summer I participated in our research fellowship, so which are, um, worked with NOAA staff and studying sea breezes on the Eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico. 

Camryn Billett: [00:03:16] Okay, and what did you do during that project? You say you studied sea breezes on the, what Gulf of Mexico?  

Kendall Parks: [00:03:23] Uh, along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. So, what we basically did, was we, um, took the radar data, and we looked at it and compared with the model data and seeing if sea breezes were, if the model data were an actual good indicator of sea breeze convection. Or if not, because you can tell if sea breeze has happened by the model data, but it’s like always as accurate as you want to be.  

Camryn Billett: [00:03:56] What is sea breeze convection?  

Kendall Parks: [00:03:58] Um, it’s basically just the lifting, the lift needed to cause a sea breeze, but last year it wasn’t a good year for it, so, the results were kind of inconclusive.  

Camryn Billett: [00:04:10] Okay, and you did this, you did this fellowship virtually? 

Kendall Parks: [00:04:13] Yes.  

Camryn Billett: [00:04:14] How was the experience virtually? Was it what you expected or no?  

Kendall Parks: [00:04:18] Oh well, it wasn’t the worst experience, but it was definitely the NOAA staff made it easy, but it was definitely something that needs to be worked on because it was like the first time they were doing it.  

Camryn Billett: [00:04:31] Hmm, that makes sense. Yeah, I would say last year was definitely a hard year for any institution to adapt to full-on virtual, because I know that my, my internship, my freshman year going into my sophomore year was, um, was at a NOAA facility in Beltsville, Maryland. And I don’t know how they would’ve done it virtually, but just doing this fellowship virtually is definitely just a little different. But yeah, I agree with you, like transitioning virtually is hard. So, it’s probably, they probably did their best that they could, but improvements can always be made. And you know it was their first time doing all of these kinds of things. 

Um, my next question is, okay, so you explained what sea breeze convection is, you explained what your project was, would you say that this fellowship was good for you? Was it bad for you? Did it tell you what you wanted to do in the future? What you didn’t want to do in the future? How did that fellowship affect your future decisions? Um, both academic and career wise?  

Kendall Parks: [00:05:31] Well definitely I had never really wanted to go into the research side of the meteorology world. I had always just wanted to do like general synopsis or forecasting, but the research wasn’t as bad as I thought. So, I would definitely be open into going into research field, but I still do want to become a forecaster one day.  

Camryn Billett: [00:05:56] So you want to be, um, like on the news telling us what the weather is today. 

Kendall Parks: [00:06:01] No, I actually want to be, uh, at NOAA facility, um, working in a field office.  

Camryn Billett: [00:06:08] Okay, and I’m sorry if this is a dumb question, so are the people on the news, they’re considered forecasters, yes? Or they get their information from other people, and they’re just the people that deliver it.  

Kendall Parks: [00:06:17] Oh, no, um, they’re definitely considered forecasters. A lot of them have old degrees in broadcast meteorology.  

Camryn Billett: [00:06:24] Okay. Okay. Okay. So that internship, I mean, not the internship, that fellowship made you more open to research. Um, did it make you want to go back? Well, you actually, you just answered this question. You said that you wanted to work for NOAA in the future. What did that fellowship lead to with, with working with NOAA? Because I know you have a current position now that was different from your position last year.  

Kendall Parks: [00:06:46] Um, well it did lead to relationships within the organization that I have used with Dr. Buddy. And, um, yeah, um, with Dr. Buddy, she’s, uh, pointed me in the right direction of some scholarships that I have yet to take advantage of, but I think it’s a good step in a good direction.  

Camryn Billett: [00:07:09] So what do you currently do now with NOAA?  

Kendall Parks: [00:07:12] Um, I’m not actually employed yet, but I’m starting at a Pathways Position on June 21st.   

Camryn Billett: [00:07:20] And what does that Pathways Position like consist of? 

Kendall Parks: [00:07:24] I don’t know yet. 

Camryn Billett: [00:07:26] So you said that you’re a rising junior. What are your plans for after you graduate, and how has NOAA shaped that? 

Kendall Parks: [00:07:36] I’m probably gonna end up going back to school to get my master’s degree or accelerated PhD program, but I, um, yeah, I think that’s what I’m going to do.  

Camryn Billett: [00:07:51] So a master’s degree or a PhD program, do you know what you want to study in terms of getting your master’s or PhD?  

Kendall Parks: [00:07:59] Um, I don’t have any research interests as of yet, but fire weather always interested me.  

Camryn Billett: [00:08:04] So you’re still trying to figure it out. 

Kendall Parks: [00:08:06] Yes.  

Camryn Billett: [00:08:07] That makes sense. Um, and I would say NOAA is definitely a good place for that. Because like I said before we started recording, when I came into NOAA, I was a physics major, theater minor, and I actually had the internship, and the internship was a physics internship, and it was research. But having the internship actually made me realize that I didn’t want to pursue physics anymore because I really did not truly enjoy researching it at that capacity. 

And so, I changed my major, changed my minor as well, um, because I did learn computer science from my first internship. I had an advisor who taught me some coding, and so I changed my minor to coding, but I changed my major to communications, and I thought I had absolutely no future. I know, like I enjoyed the work environment, and I enjoyed the people that I met, but I was just like, change my major, change my minor, there’s no place for me here anymore. But then I got this fellowship, and so I just feel like NOAA, working here, and just figuring out everything they’re about, there’s always a place for you. And so, like you said, you’re kind of unsure as to what you want to do in the future. But, you know, like it’s probably going to do something with the weather, fire, atmospheric sciences, and stuff like that. I definitely think it’s important for, like, the audience to know that, you know, when you have these internships and you go through these processes in college, you still might be unsure as to what you want to do, but there’s still a place for you here at NOAA. 

Kendall Parks: [00:09:40] Definitely.  

Camryn Billett: [00:09:41] So I just want to thank you for coming on to our podcast today and just shedding a little bit of light as to what you did with NOAA and where you’re going.  

Kendall Parks: [00:09:48] Well, thank you for having me.  

Camryn Billett: [00:09:49] Of course, no problem.  

Kendall Parks: [00:09:51] See you. 

Camryn Billett: [00:09:52] We hope you enjoyed today’s conversation and learned something new about NCAS-M. As a college student, it’s normal to have levels of uncertainty about what you want to do in the future, but as always, there’s a place here for you to grow, learn, and explore all educational and career opportunities at NCAS-M. We encourage you to apply at ncas-m.org. Again, that is ncas-m.org. We hope to see you soon. Thank you for tuning into NCAS-M Student Scientists and Stakeholders. If you like today’s episode, please subscribe and share it with your friends.