NCCS User Spotlight: Robin Kovach
To celebrate World Ocean Day, we spoke with one of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s ocean scientists, Robin Kovach.
Hometown: I grew up in a small town in Middlebury, Connecticut. I spent the summers with my grandparents at the shore in Ocean Beach, New Jersey, where I grew to love the ocean. That inspired me go to college, where I could work on the water (preferably in a warm climate) and make a difference in the environment and world we live in.
Career Path to NASA: I started at the Florida Institute of Technology as a Marine Biology major, then switched to Oceanography. I eventually earned my B.S and M.S. in Ocean Engineering.
My first job was at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS), where I spent my time aboard research vessels to gather and analyze data from various atmospheric and oceanic instrumentation. I loved working in the field and traveling, but after five years, my husband and I wanted to move back north to be closer to our families. We now live in Elkridge, Maryland.
Research Role: I was a scientist working on the NASA Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project (NSIPP). That research involved ocean data observations, data assimilation, and incorporating new satellite salinity products into our seasonal forecast models. NSIPP eventually merged with the former Data Assimilation Office to form the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) at NASA Goddard.
Current Role: For the past five years, I have been on a growing path toward leadership. With the amazing support of my company, SSAI, and mentors, I became the GMAO Project Lead. At the GMAO, I started to do less technical science work and more technical leadership activities. Currently, I am the Program Manager for a contract that supports the atmospheric science and data assimilation research conducted by scientists at NASA Goddard. Although I miss research, I really love learning this new aspect of the work and interfacing more closely with the customers that we support.
Inspiration: People inspire me the most. Watching my father growing up inspired me to work hard and to choose something that I would enjoy doing every day. I also drew a lot of inspiration from my high school and college coaches. They taught me to never give up, to manage my time, and to be well-rounded.
People who have influenced me: My college peers have influenced my life, and many are still a part of it. Florida Tech’s College of Ocean Engineering and Science was a small, close-knit group; we all encouraged each other and worked together. My peers have all gone on to have amazing careers and are still inspiring me to keep working hard and learning.
Challenges: One of my biggest challenges was overcoming breast cancer. It was the scariest time of my life, but it made me stronger and changed my view on life. I don’t take anything for granted and strive to remain positive and happy no matter what challenges come my way.
- Hackert, E., R.M. Kovach, A. Molod, G. Vernieres, A. Borovikov, J. Marshak, and Y. Chang, 2020: Satellite Sea Surface Salinity Observations Impact on El Niño/Southern Oscillation Predictions: Case Studies from the NASA GEOS Seasonal Forecast System. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 125, e2019JC015788, doi:10.1029/2019JC015788.
Sean Keefe, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center