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Australian weather scientist takes Argonne by storm

Scott Collis moved his family from Australia three years ago to join the staff at Argonne National Laboratory's Environmental Science Division.
Scott Collis moved his family from Australia three years ago to join the staff at Argonne National Laboratory's Environmental Science Division.

LEMONT – People who move to the Chicago area often talk about the weather, but climate scientist Scott Collis finds it a particularly interesting subject.

Collis, a radar meteorologist with Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division, moved to Clarendon Hills from Australia three years ago.

Collis was recently named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” for his climate and meteorology research.

The Brilliant 10 are a group of 10 researchers younger than 40 who “have made revolutionary contributions to their fields,” according to an Argonne news release.

Collis said his work involves building climate models to better understand the regional effects of climate change.

“The overall big picture is to better understand the way the atmosphere works,” he said.

Collis said he first became involved with the U.S. Department of Energy while working in Australia, where the department funded his study of the Australian wet season.

When the department built a weather radar network, it recruited him to work at Argonne, he said.

“My wife and I decided it was quite the adventure, so we packed the family and came up here,” he said.

Collis said his family has settled nicely in Clarendon Hills.

“It’s very family friendly,” he said.

The move required adjustments, he said, such as learning what a gallon is, driving on the other side of the road and discovering that meal portions in restaurants are larger than he’s used to.

And even though he is a climate scientist, Collis said the Chicago area weather still managed to surprise him.

He was expecting the snow and cold during the winter but not the summer thunderstorms and tornadoes.

“I was not prepared for wet humidity and heat,” he said.

Collis said he also was surprised by receiving the honor from Popular Science, which he called gratifying and humbling.

“As a scientist, you focus in on your science almost to the point of not looking at how other people see your science,” he said.

Rao Kotamarthi, senior program manager for the Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Research Group, is Collis’ direct supervisor.

He said Collis’ knowledge and enthusiasm have been a great asset to the group.

“He has a way of expressing his ideas and getting them across to a large number of people that is very effective,” Kotamarthi said.

Collis said the honor shows that the editors of the magazine value the field that he studies.

“I think my science is cool and interesting and I’m glad people feel the same,” he said.

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