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Jeff Trapp

Jeff Trapp

Blue Waters Professor | Head, Department of Atmospheric Sciences

What led a record number of new students to enroll in the UI’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences this fall?

The answer lies, at least in part, in a modest, little-known building in the 1800 block of South Oak Street.

“This is the ‘DOW barn,’ where I’ve spent a lot of my time over the past six months, and probably a part of campus that few people know exist,” says department head Jeff Trapp, who met a News-Gazette photographer there last week.

Inside, you’ll find one of the things that sets Trapp’s department apart from any other on a U.S. college campus — a multi-million-dollar “Doppler on Wheels” mobile radar and instrumentation facility, built for up-close viewing of tornadoes, wildfires, cyclones and blizzards and available to UI students through a partnership with Targetable Meteorological Systems for classroom instruction and research projects.

The technology arrived earlier this year, Trapp’s seventh on campus following an 11-year stint at Purdue.

The Blue Waters Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Trapp holds degrees from Missouri (bachelor’s in agriculture/atmospheric science), Texas A&M (master’s in meteorology) and Oklahoma (Ph.D. in meteorology).

He took us for a guided, virtual tour of some of his most memorable places and spaces on and around campus.

Where I went on my UI job interview

I interviewed in the Atmospheric Sciences Building on South Gregory Street. (Fun fact: You’ll find LAS Advancement in the Atmospheric Sciences Building; we’re now in the Natural History Building).

The other relevant question for a meteorologist regards the weather conditions: My interview was held during one of the “polar vortex” events.

The overnight temperatures were in the single digits.

The first spot I’d take a newcomer I wanted to impress

I think a newcomer to campus should be taken immediately to the Main Quad, especially during “passing periods” on a mid-October morning.

The one structure that should never be messed with, no matter how old it gets

The Alma Mater statue.

Favorite place to think

A lot of my problem-solving — including how to respond to these questions — happens, or is at least attempted, during runs or walks through the Arboretum and Japanese Gardens.

If I’m in need of inspiration during the day, the Main Quad is the place.

The place I can’t wait to visit more, post-pandemic

As proud as I am of the virtual ceremonies that we in Atmospheric Sciences created for the May 2020 and 2021 graduations, I can’t wait for a return to in-person graduation in Krannert.

My go-to sports or entertainment venue

I love the swimming pools at the ARC. One of my happiest days of the year is when the outdoor pool opens for the season.

Favorite place to grab a bite to eat

Legends, especially when we’re hosting visiting students. Also, the back patio feels like vacation.

And, if it’s a Friday, my go-to order is the fish and chips.

Favorite spot without walls

The fountains. Within easy reach from my office in NHB are the ones outside Harker Hall and the Illini Union.

(See if you can find eight wild boars on the Diana fountain).

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