In honor of Women’s History Month, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) would like to recognize two of our female leaders within the Hurricane Research Division (HRD), Heather Holbach and Shirley Murillo. We talked to these incredible scientists to learn more about their leadership roles within the division and to seek out any advice they have for women early in their science career.
Dr. Heather Holbach is a Cooperative Institute employee with the Northern Gulf Institute at Florida State University. She holds a few different leadership roles within AOML’s Hurricane Research Division, including serving as the Deputy Director for the 2023 Hurricane Field Program. In this role, she will support the Hurricane Field Program Director, Dr. Jason Dunion, with executing their research plan for the upcoming hurricane season using NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
Additionally, Heather serves as HRD’s expert on the Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR), which collects estimates of surface wind speed and rain rate onboard the NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft. She also co-leads HRD’s Data, Display, Archival, and Legacy working group, which focuses on ensuring that all of the unique and incredibly valuable datasets they collect are properly managed.
Heather’s advice for women interested in taking on leadership roles is to capitalize on opportunities, no matter how small, to gain experience.
“I suggest pursuing opportunities for leadership training. I had a wonderful experience with the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Early Career Leadership Academy (ECLA) a few years ago that taught me some great skills as I began exploring leadership roles within HRD.”Dr. Heather Holbach, Deputy Director of the 2023 Hurricane Field Program
Shirley Murillo has been the Deputy Director of AOML’s Hurricane Research Division since June 2017. In this role, she oversees the daily functions of the division and coordinates with the division’s Director, Dr. Frank Marks, on achieving their overall science research objectives. From developing strategies to advance hurricane research initiatives, to collaborating with partners across the agency and the weather enterprise, to managing the budget, Shirley keeps a pulse on the division and its future direction. She also collaborates with other divisional leaders to meet AOML’s overall mission.
Shirley’s advice for anyone who is early in their career is to ask questions.
“If you are interested in an opportunity, ask if you can be part of it. Take the initiative and ask. If you don’t hear back, ask again. Be open and willing to learn a new skill. I participated in several leadership programs that helped me hone my skills. Seek a mentor. A good mentor can provide you guidance, tips, and motivation to achieve your goals.”Shirley Murillo, AOML’s Hurricane Research Division Deputy Director