Missouri State University

Julie Barnum

  • Major: Physics
  • Hometown: Osage Beach, Missouri

Uncovering the secrets of lightning

During a summer project, Julie worked on deciphering one of nature's scariest phenomena.

Like many people, Julie Barnum remembers feeling frightened by storms as a child. "I was terrified of thunder," she says, "but I'd still run out and go look at what was happening." 

She got an in-depth look over the summer when she worked with the CHILL Radar system, a network that collects meteorological data across northern Colorado. Julie focused on analyzing patterns of lightning from a specific storm and comparing them to the weather characteristics radar recorded during the same storm. 

As a result, she says, "I know a lot more about how lightning works -- at least as much as we can know at this point because it's still one of those subjects in weather that's not very well understood." 

Even so, lightning will eventually have to relinquish its air of mystery, and Julie plans to keep chipping away at it. Her summer studies have morphed into her senior project, and she's looking forward to taking it even further during graduate school.