Jennifer Adam

Alum, PhD
Hydrology & Hydrodynamics

Where are you now working? Please describe your job.

I am an associate professor at Washington State University and associate director of the State of Washington Water Research Center (WRC). As a professor, I teach water resources classes and am involved in a large number of research projects where we are trying to inform land and water managers on actions they can take to adapt to climate change. As associate director of the WRC, I am also involved in networking with individuals across the state on water research, education and outreach.

How did your UW CEE degree prepare you for your career?

I felt incredibly prepared for my career based on the academic rigor of the courses and the research I was involved in. Professor Emeritus Dennis Lettenmaier is very collaborative with other faculty at UW and elsewhere, which prepared me for collaborative research. The papers we co-authored are in top journals and highly cited, so recruiting good students and seeking funding for my research program has been achievable.

What area of the field are you particularly interested in?

I am interested in understanding the linkages between climate change and variability and the hydrologic cycle. Most importantly, I’m interested in understanding these linkages for both humans and the environment and what actions we can take to reduce our vulnerability (and that of the environment) to climate change.

Why did you choose UW CEE over other schools?

Two reasons: I was attracted to the Northwest and also came to work with Professor Emeritus Dennis Lettenmaier. Dennis is one of the founding fathers of the field of hydroclimatology. I became interested in hydroclimatology and became interested in the intersection of climate sciences and water resources when I lived through a major drought (caused by the 1997-1998 El Nino) in the Pacific Islands where they did not have the infrastructure to handle droughts.

How did you first become interested in engineering?

When I was in high school I saw a video on the Panama Canal and thought it was the most amazing project ever. I then decided to become a civil engineer.

What was the program like?

I enjoyed my time at UW. The program was both academically vigorous, but also highly collaborative within our research group.

What did you enjoy most about the program?

I enjoyed working with Professor Emeritus Dennis Lettenmaier on quite a variety of projects. There was never a boring moment in that group.

If you were involved in research while completing the program, what did you work on?

For my master’s thesis, I focused on creating precipitation datasets at the global scale. We don’t know what “true” precipitation is anywhere in the world, which makes the field of hydrology challenging because precipitation is the most important term in the water balance. I worked out improving these estimates. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I worked on understanding why streamflow is increasing from northern Eurasian watersheds. There is concern that too much freshwater inflow to that part of the ocean can upset ocean circulation patterns.

Any advice for prospective students who are considering UW CEE?

It is a great program with a large and diverse set of faculty and academic rigor. I recommend it!