Students often come and go from Iowa City, dropping in for a few years to get their degree before moving on to big cities and small towns across the country; but for some, Iowa is—and always has been—home. Lindsay Matthews, a graduate student at the University of Iowa, is one of those people.
“I was born, raised, and educated in Iowa,” she says.
Growing up, Matthews was afraid of natural disasters from thunderstorms to tornadoes, but she says over time her fear turned to fascination as she read in-depth about the natural world. She turned her childhood fear into a career by first getting her bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Iowa State University, and then moving to pursue her master’s degree from the University of Iowa Sustainable Water Development Program (SWD). With a degree in meteorology, she says she enjoys working in a program like SWD that welcomes students without an engineering background.
“I know I want to work for a government agency like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the USGS, [or] the National Weather Service,” she says.
Matthews got a jump on her dream this summer working as an intern with the hydraulics and hydrology section of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). She split her time between data collection in the field and work on computer models. Data collection included beach sampling at the Coralville reservoir, boat sampling, and a survey of the Wapsipinicon River Basin to ready it for the stream sensors the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) will soon install.
Matthews also creates computer models for IFC under the direction of Witold Krajewski, the director of the flood center and a member of the SWD faculty. She researches evapotranspiration (ET), which is the process of water leaving the surface of the earth, either through evaporation from standing water or transpiration from growing plants. She uses code to create colorful maps that demonstrate how ET changes throughout the day.
Starting in August 2019, Matthews took over the hydrologic weather update at the weekly IFC meetings. She reports on the current flooding and weather, rainfall rates both future and past, the chance of thunderstorms, and temperature predictions.
As Matthews tackled her undergraduate degree, she spent time storm chasing with fellow meteorology majors. They went out in groups of three or four: one driver, one or two watching the radar, and one scanning the skies. Matthews says she would love to get back into storm chasing; she just has to find the right group. Her advice to new storm chasers is, “Wear good shoes, pack a lot of snacks, but don’t drink a lot of water because you don’t always get to stop for bathroom breaks.”