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Meet Undergraduate Student Jake Vile

Where are you from?  Where were you before you joined CliMAS in Illinois?

I grew up in a town just outside of Chicago called Wilmette, IL. Before joining CliMAS, I was in high school at New Trier. Not really that much exciting here…

Tell us about what you’re wanting to focus on in your studies:

In particular, I would like to focus on either tropical cyclones and/or severe weather. I know those are VERY broad subject matters each with differing sizes of scale, but honestly both of these meteorological phenomena fascinate me about equally so I’m kind of letting chance dictate which path I go down. 

I will say one thing - I am a current senior and therefore have already applied to graduate schools specializing in either severe weather or tropical meteorology. As I was applying to graduate school, I was doing an internship at the University of Queensland studying Pyrocumulonimbus clouds. I’ll be honest, that REALLY got me fascinated in fire weather (PyroCB clouds in particular), so I might also pursue a path down that route as well!

Tell us about what drew you to the University and our CliMAS Department:

I knew I wanted to study meteorology ever since I was a little kid. I didn’t really have one of those classic “witnessing a tornado” type of events, but it was more so my own independent research into meteorology. When I was in 8th grade, I participated in this thing called Science Olympiad, basically a series of competitions in a plethora of different fields, one of which included meteorology. To prepare for the state competition, I did a lot of my own research, which included reading journal articles. That kind of sparked my interest in pursuing meteorology as a career. Seeing professionals literally say “I have no idea what’s going on here” really sparked my interest! (Side note: I also managed to get 2nd in Illinois at said competition)

As for Illinois, coming from the Chicagoland suburbs it was almost a no brainer deciding to come to University of Illinois. You really can’t beat in-state tuition, and for the quality of the program/professors I’ve met along the way, it really couldn’t be beat!

What do you think is the most important weather-related issue right now?

I think the most important weather-related issue right now is one of two things: The first is how to forecast/improve forecasting new extremes. Obviously with climate change, extreme heat/flood/droughts (and even hurricanes and severe weather to some degree) are becoming more extreme, and therefore the associated risk is changing as well. The underlying risks aren’t just changing due to the extreme weather either, but also can be affected from air pollution, sea level rise, or even other socioeconomic factors as well (which is why our field is to tied to geography!). The next/other challenge is communicating said risk. We could be as professional as we want to be, but if we don’t have any credibility, then we’re honestly quite useless. This is especially true in recent times when public opinion has been polarized to the extreme. If we can’t communicate that the underlying risks are now different and therefore a particular storm causes more risk than before, we’re undermining our bottom line: to save lives. I’m thrilled to see all of the work being done at the National Weather Service Forecast Offices. They’re trying their best to get out into the field, to restore that credibility. However, I think the same needs to be true for more people. We can all do a better job at trying to get more credibility behind our names!

What activities and hobbies do you have outside of school?

One thing that I absolutely LOVE to do is travel. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I chose to go to school at Illinois. Although the department has no official study abroad program, the rest of the university has a TON, and given that I essentially came in a year ahead thanks to COVID-19 AP tests, I could afford to take two semesters abroad. Not only was I able to study in London and Sydney, but I was also able to find an internship after each study abroad opportunity in Germany and Brisbane, Australia respectively. 

I greatly value seeing/experiencing different cultures, which is exactly what I got to do while I was abroad. I was able to travel to 48 different countries during my undergraduate career, ranging from Denmark and Japan to Zambia and Cambodia, something that’s really only possible because I went to UIUC!

 What are your career goals?

I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any set career goals right now. All that I know is that I want to go onto graduate school as I really enjoy doing research. I plan to specialize in either severe weather or tropical meteorology, which ever opportunity has the  best project/advisor. After that, I might go into the private industry, work for a government agency, or become a faculty member. 

One thing that is unique to my situation is that I actually have multiple offers for graduate school from the institutions that I worked at abroad. Although I would like to remain in the U.S. through at least graduate school, I’m keeping the door open to a (potentially permanent) relocation to either Germany or Australia, as I REALLY enjoyed living in those countries.

Bonus: What’s your favorite song/tv show right now?’

I’m a little behind on my tv binging (thanks to the amount of travel that I do) but I’m currently watching the final season of Attack on Titan, a Japanese anime.