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Pack Reflections: Laura Tomkins ’24

Close-up of Laura Tomkins in her cap and gown for graduation.

Laura Tomkins graduated from the NC State Center for Geospatial Analytics in May 2024 with a doctoral degree in geospatial analytics. The center is housed in the College of Natural Resources.

For her dissertation, Tomkins used more than 10 years of meteorological observations to understand the relationships between weather radar-observed structures within winter storms and surface snow rates.

Tomkins was recently hired as a senior atmospheric scientist by Karen Clark and Company in Boston, Massachusetts. The company develops software that provides innovative tools for catastrophe risk management.

“The insurance industry uses catastrophe models to analyze risks associated with natural disasters. I am excited about this opportunity since it will involve applying my technical skills and learning new techniques to analyze and apply atmospheric science datasets,” Tomkins said.

We recently spoke with Tomkins to learn more about her NC State experience and how it’s contributed to her success. Check out the Q&A below.

What motivated you to pursue a doctoral degree in geospatial analytics? 

I initially didn’t consider pursuing a doctoral degree. But since I was still undecided about what I wanted to do after earning my master’s degree, my undergraduate advisor, Sandra Yuter, encouraged me to look into the geospatial analytics program as an option for continuing my graduate education. The program was perfect for me since it’s a multidisciplinary program that caters to students with a wide range of post-graduate career goals.

Why did you choose to pursue this degree at NC State? 

My decision to pursue this degree at NC State was partially due to the fact that the geospatial analytics program is very unique and isn’t found at many schools. But it was mostly because I had a great relationship with Sandra Yuter, who encouraged me to come back and had funding from NASA to work on a winter storm field campaign. Also, North Carolina is home and NC State is where I earned my undergraduate degree.

What were some of your most memorable NC State experiences?

Some of my most memorable experiences at NC State were during a few snow days during my freshman and sophomore years. There was one storm during my sophomore year when it started snowing early one morning more heavily than expected and classes hadn’t been canceled yet. I remember making snow angels in the small dusting of snow that had accumulated already in the recreation center parking lot before going to my 8:30 a.m. class. I spent most of the class watching the snow accumulate outside before classes were officially canceled for the rest of the day. I have fond memories of these snow days walking around campus and watching everyone enjoy the snow — and the extra free time. 

How has the Center for Geospatial Analytics prepared you for your future? 

The Center for Geospatial Analytics helped me hone in my technical skills through the coursework. The center also encouraged professional development through conference presentations and workshops offered through several organizations at the university.

What advice would you give students entering your major or field?

Graduate school is a great time to take advantage of opportunities beyond courses and thesis work. Whether that be an internship, a workshop, or an intramural sport, there are so many great experiences offered both on and off campus. There are many workshops and other professional development opportunities offered by the graduate school and the libraries. I also highly recommend taking courses outside of the required coursework as it is a great opportunity to learn something new that you can apply to your research or just for general curiosity’s sake. There are also many great amenities on campus, including the gym, the student union and the libraries.

Tell us about something you are passionate about outside of your academic studies.

Outside of my academic studies, I enjoy baking and cooking. I love trying out new recipes and collecting cookbooks.