Lisa Beal, Professor and Associate Dean of Research, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA
I am a Professor of Oceanography at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Currently I am also serving as Associate Dean of Research at RSMAS. My research focuses on ocean circulation and property transports, particularly within western boundary currents and in the Indian Ocean. I collect observations using moored, profiling, and underway instrumentation to measure fluxes and variability and I have also begun to use climate models to understand the wider context of these measurements. I am best known for my research on the Agulhas Current off South Africa, including its intensity, downstream evolution, water mass mixing, and temporal variability. I studied aeronautical engineering at Southampton University in the UK before switching to oceanography as a second-year undergraduate. I was obsessed with being in the air, whether in a plane, glider, hot air balloon, or helicopter, so aeronautical engineering seemed a natural choice. But the military and industrial application soon alienated me, so I looked for something more aligned with my love of the natural world and found physical oceanography. I completed my PhD at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton in 1997 and then moved to the US for a postdoc at Columbia University. With the help of senior collaborators I received my first NSF grant as a postdoc and moved to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to carry out the research. After 3 years there I joined the faculty at RSMAS in 2003. The biggest challenge in my career has been “imposter syndrome”: a sense that I am not clever enough, dedicated enough, or knowledgeable enough to be a good scientist. These anxieties have meant that finding supportive mentors and colleagues has been essential to my success, as has maintaining a day-to-day balance of work, exercise, and family/friends. Looking back I see two events in particular that propelled my career: the opportunity to collaborate on an NSF proposal as a postdoc, and more recently, stepping up as chairperson of an international SCOR working group. Being a scientist has led to personal achievements, travel, and friendships far beyond what I ever could have dreamed of! And I feel privileged and proud to be a small “part of the solution” when so many people must simply work to earn a living.