Student Spotlight: Robert Szot

| Thu, 07/15/21
Robert Szot
Florida State University meteorology student and Presidential Scholar Robert Szot.

Robert Szot is a sophomore majoring in meteorology in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, and minoring in computer science, both part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Szot, a Presidential Scholar and FSU Weather team leader, actively participates in the “FSU Weather” broadcast and plans to attend graduate school in the future to advance his career as a weathercaster.

Where are you from? When is your expected graduation date? What brought you to FSU?

I am from Plano, Texas, and I am a sophomore, graduating in 2024. During my campus tour, Shel McGuire, the former undergraduate meteorology adviser, took me around the “FSU Weather” studio and showed me the studio’s map of alumni who now hold jobs in broadcast meteorology. Her tour was a significant factor in my decision to attend Florida State, as was the rigor of the meteorology program and my being awarded the Presidential Scholars award.

What inspired you to choose your major and your specific area of research?

Growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, nearly every night between March and June the local news stations would cut into regular TV programing to inform us of a new severe thunderstorm threatening the area. After experiencing extreme meteorological phenomena for years and spending hours watching The Weather Channel as a child, I became extremely interested in studying weather, specifically the nature of severe thunderstorms. I look up to the meteorologists who helped my family endure dangerous weather, and I want to do the same for others in the future.

What aspect of your area of study do you find most fascinating?

While many meteorologists spend a significant amount of time behind the scenes like other scientists as they prepare forecasts and analyze current or past weather conditions, much of this work is translated to the public almost immediately, which is unique for a science-based field. Broadcast meteorologists and private sector meteorologists are often the only scientists in the room in a broadcast setting and are responsible for translating hard science for the public. The hard science of meteorology and its translation for the public is one of the most fascinating aspects of meteorology and has influenced me to turn my passion for weather from a hobby into my career path.

You are an active participant in the “FSU Weather” television show. What has your experience been like in this program, and how does your passion for meteorology assist you?

This upcoming fall, I will serve as one of five “FSU Weather” team leaders. As a team leader, I will oversee all aspects of production on Wednesdays, including talent scheduling, show formatting, broadcast critiques, and serve as the show’s director, if necessary. My passion for meteorology aids me most in presenting a well-rounded forecast on air. “FSU Weather” has given me the opportunity to share my passion for meteorology with the public while gaining deeper knowledge on niche meteorological concepts. My favorite thing about “FSU Weather” is seeing fellow students join our team to become better forecasters, ranging from freshmen weathercasters on their first day of classes to senior weathercasters signing their first contract with a broadcast station.

Who are the faculty or staff members that have helped or inspired you?

Lawton Distinguished Professor Sharon Nicholson and associate professor Jon Ahlquist, both of meteorology in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, were huge resources during my first year at Florida State. Under their guidance, I conducted research in meteorology as a freshman and grew in my meteorological knowledge from both a science-based and a broadcast-based perspective. I owe the ease of my transition to Florida State to Craig Filar, associate dean and undergraduate studies director of the Office of National Fellowships, who has challenged me to pursue bigger goals than I originally set for myself. Arianne Johnson Quinn, teaching faculty in the Honors Experience Program, rekindled my childhood passion for theatre which aids my performance in front of an audience in the broadcasting studio.

How has your role as a student researcher and Presidential Scholar helped prepare you for academic and professional success?

Through my roles as researcher and Presidential Scholar, I have gained knowledge on research practices and policy and improved my knowledge of meteorology in how it relates to the public through communication. This connection will be incredibly important to me in the future, no matter which aspect of meteorology I pursue in my career.

You share your own weather updates and repost weather-related content on your Twitter account. What inspired you to do this, and how has this helped you in your academic career? Have you made any interesting connections in the industry via Twitter?

In my early teens, I joined the National Weather Service’s Skywarn Storm Spotter program, a volunteer program with up to 400,000 trained weather spotters that provide reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service, and I was inspired by my friends in the program to post weather updates for my city. My Twitter account has taught me how to provide enough information to my community for them to assess a dangerous weather situation, which is a crucial skill for my future in weather broadcasting. Several broadcast meteorologists from major stations have followed my Twitter, and it is thrilling to receive feedback from professionals on my posts and broadcasts.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing schoolwork or research?

In the past year, I have been recruiting FSU students to start a Quiz Bowl team on campus to participate in this nationally recognized quiz-based competition. My hope is by next fall we will be able to travel to nearby competitions and hone our knowledge about the world around us. In my free time, I enjoy streaming (too many) TV shows, watching late night election results in places such as New Zealand or Canada, playing competitive Tetris with my friends, and browsing Wikipedia articles.

After graduating, what are your plans?

I am considering pursuing graduate school, and as a result, am involving myself in lots of undergraduate research in climatology and communications. Ultimately, I want to become a broadcast meteorologist or work with the National Weather Service. While I may not know the specifics of my life after undergrad, I am excited to see where my academic path in meteorology at Florida State leads me.

What advice do you have for fellow students?

When you are transitioning into a new phase of your life, it can be tempting to look forward and anticipate where you may be headed. While it is always good to plan ahead, be sure to savor the present too. One day, the future you planned will become the present, and you do not want to miss it when it arrives.