August 24, 2017

Q&A with Dr. Mona Behl, Associate Director of NOAA’s Sea Grant Program in Georgia

Posted by Timia Crisp

Women’s Equality Day is August 26th! To celebrate, AGU will be highlighting several prominent women working in Earth and space science. We’ll be posting Q&A’s on The Bridge and to our various social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram!   

Today’s featured scientist is Dr. Mona Behl. Dr. Behl serves as the Associate Director of NOAA’s Sea Grant program in Georgia. She also holds faculty appointments at the University of Georgia in Athens

Message from Dr. Behl: This picture conveys one of the most rewarding aspect of my current job –the opportunity to strengthen the relationship between science and society, through research and engagement with broader audiences, each day.

Who or what has inspired you to pursue your research?   
I consider myself a lifelong learner. After earning my master’s degree in Physics from India, I taught for two years. I wanted to pursue higher education in a field where I could use my academic foundation in Physics to understand the world around us. My deceased fiancé inspired me to apply for graduate programs abroad. My family provided me with their tireless support.  

What is an obstacle you have had to overcome to get to your current position? Lack of positive role models. Being an international scholar, who is also a female physical scientist, I found it extremely challenging to find role models that I could emulate and imitate. It got even harder when I decided to pursue a non-traditional career outside academia. 
Did you have any important mentors in your career, and how did they impact you?   
My mentors have nourished my personal and professional growth, and inspired me all along. One mentor who has a substantial influence on my life is Dr. Bill Hooke. He is the Associate Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). A genuine gentleman, scientist, scholar, and a compassionate human being, Bill continues to empower me with positive values and unique perspectives. He takes the time to connect with me regularly, is a patient and respectful listener, and consistently nurtures my potential and instills confidence in me. Something else that I have learned from Bill is that lifelong learning is often preceded by mistakes. Bill allows his mentees to make mistakes, learn and improve over time.
What should be the future priorities for scientific research in the U.S.?   
Science informs and empowers the society. Basic research and education in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and other sciences is required to create the knowledge base to more applied research. Social science research, including research in economics, political science, sociology, history, anthropology, and law, plays a critical role in addressing key societal issues, like national security and violent crime. Scholarship in humanities is important to create an educated and responsible work force, and constructively engage with cultures around the world.
How can the U.S. ensure that it continues to play a leading role in scientific discovery?    
Investment in basic research, social science, technology, and innovation is essential for creating an economy that is competitive. Partnerships are critical to solve world’s biggest problems  
What discovery do you hope is made in your lifetime?   
A matter-antimatter reactor that can be used as a power source.

Thank you to Dr. Behl for her time and answers! Be sure to follow the latest at NOAA Sea Grant in Georgia on twitter @GeorgiaSeaGrant.