UAH alumnus Scott Mackaro named VP, Science, Innovation & Development for AccuWeather

Dr. Scott Mackaro

UAH alumnus Dr. Scott Mackaro was recently named Vice President, Science, Innovation, and Development for AccuWeather, the world's fastest-growing weather and digital media company.

The 1996 blockbuster movie, Twister cinched Scott Mackaro’s (’03, M.S., ’08 PhD, Atmospheric Science) decision to become a scientist.

Today, Mackaro is Vice President of Science, Innovation, and Development for AccuWeather, a media company providing commercial weather forecasts worldwide.

His fascination with science and meteorology began as a youngster when his parents gave him a set of The Encyclopedia of Science. "I read the entire 24 book volume," said Mackaro. He became seriously interested in weather cycles during his middle school years. "Twister was the deciding factor…the tipping point, in my 16-year-old brain to become an atmospheric scientist."

After earning his undergraduate degree from Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Mackaro headed south to UAH, and its "connection to NASA" to earn graduate degrees in Atmospheric Science. "My goal was to be a professor and UAH gave me a teaching assistant opportunity. I remained at the university for my PhD after becoming interested in numerical weather prediction through the influence of the late Dr. William M. Lapenta."

Lapenta, who passed away last September served as an adjunct professor at UAH from 1992 to 2008. He was Mackaro’s master’s degree graduate advisor.

After leaving UAH, Lapenta served as the director of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

Also, very important to Mackaro’s academic and career success was Dr. Richard T. McNider, UAH Distinguished Professor of Science. McNider was Mackaro’s PhD advisor in the university’s College of Science.

Mackaro said UAH faculty taught him the importance of fundamentals. "All of the fancy stuff we do in our jobs is only as strong as the underlying foundation you begin with," he added. "The fundamentals provided to me at UAH went well beyond science and math knowledge. I was provided opportunities to dig into underlying codebases, access to high-performance computing clusters, and exposed knowledge only available from individuals with a lifetime of experience."

Mackaro’s favorite UAH experiences included Brown-Bag Seminars. "I also enjoyed many of the UAH adjunct (mostly NASA employees) faculty courses, because they brought in practical expertise to answer the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ we were learning as students," he added. Mackaro appreciated, too the support he received from faculty members when bringing professional development opportunities to their attention.

His first job after graduating from UAH was a visiting professorship of meteorology at Metropolitan State College in Denver, quickly followed by postdoctoral research at the NOAA laboratory in Boulder.

Being named vice president at AccuWeather last summer was "an amazing honor and a bit of a jolt," said Mackaro. He manages about 30 talented science professionals in meteorology, data science, and data-driven technologies.

"My role is to implement the next generation of data systems, to run innovation efforts through the recently established AccuWeather Laboratories, and to strengthen partnerships across the weather enterprise (government, academia, and other private partnerships).

"Innovative new products in meteorology are always on the horizon here at AccuWeather. We are always looking to make weather more personal and making decisions around weather more efficient," added Mackaro. "With a global, daily reach of more than 1.5 billion people, AccuWeather is truly a window to the world for weather forecasts, data, intelligence, and technology."

Mackaro’s advice to college-bound students considering a career in atmospheric science is to remember weather impacts the lives of everyone on the planet. "There is a real need to translate the impacts of weather to people and businesses. Practically, that means a career in the atmospheric sciences can open the door to everything from foundational research science to policy to marketing and business roles."