Dream job becomes reality

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

By Cole Dittmer
ECU Communications

This fall, East Carolina University Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan (Class of 2015) will join the National Weather Service in Wichita, Kansas as one of 31 new hires by the federal agency that is responsible for providing weather, water and climate data, forecasts and warnings across the country.

Vaughan is the son of Keith and Elaine Vaughan of Murfreesboro and a Ridgecroft School graduate, where he was valedictorian in 2011.

Vaughan, who has nearly completed his master’s degree in meteorology from Florida State University, said he had his choice of going to the NWS offices in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Michigan. Vaughan ultimately chose Wichita.

“I picked Wichita because I knew I would get a lot of severe weather experience there,” Vaughan said. “I knew Wichita would be more beneficial in the long run to my career because they have severe weather all the time, and I’ll get to experience all four seasons.”

Vaughan was one of 31 hired out of 850 applicants. After not being referred to the final pool of applicants the first time he applied, Vaughn said he was relieved to have his choice of four stations this time.

“It is pretty competitive to get into and I knew I would have better chance to get in with a masters, so that is why I went to Florida State,” he said. “This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.”

While the official title for Vaughan’s position is meteorologist intern, it is the entry level staff position for the NWS. In his first couple years, Vaughan said he will be learning how to complete NWS forecasts, train on the NWS computer systems and radar, launch weather balloons, and help manage his office’s social media accounts.

Vaughan hopes to move through the ranks of the NWS and eventually make it back to the NWS station in Honolulu, Hawaii where he completed a summer internship while at ECU. Other “dream” stations for Vaughan include Guam, or one of the stations in Florida.

“I’d say my dream job would be to be the meteorologist in charge at one of those stations, but that is a long time away,” he said, laughing.

For now, Vaughan is focusing on defending his master’s thesis on historical rainfall variability in the Sahel and Guinea coasts of Africa before moving to Kansas in September.