Dr. Laura Condon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences (HAS) at the University of Arizona. Dr. Condon’s renowned research focuses on large – scale sustainable water and the dynamic behavior of managed hydrological systems in the context of past developments and future climate change. Her work combines physically based numerical modeling with statistical techniques to evaluate large systems using rigorous quantitative methods.
Dr. Condon, a resident of Boulder, CO, received his B.S. from Columbia University and M.S. and Ph.D. in Hydrologic Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines – Golden. She joined the UArizona Faculty in 2018 and established the research group Condon Hydrology Lab, which focuses on interactions with groundwater surface water and large-scale hydrological modeling.
“Laura has been a great addition to our faculty in recent years,” said Dr. Tom Meixner, professor and head of the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. “Her pioneering work in understanding groundwater and its interaction with climate and human aquaculture promises to help water management in the decades to come. Her mentoring of students both in her research group and beyond has strengthened our teaching and mentoring of undergraduate students to PhDs.”
Laura was nominated for the Scientist Spotlight Series for her outstanding research and mentoring efforts in our community. This monthly series highlights faculty, staff, postdocs and researchers throughout the College of Science and the tremendous work they do to promote the college along with their peers.
College of Science: Tell us a little more about your path to the University of Arizona and your current role as an assistant professor of hydrology.
Laura: After growing up on a farm in Colorado, I became interested in water sustainability from an early age. However, there are many ways to work with water issues, and it was difficult to decide the right path. I have always liked mathematics, so I chose engineering. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I worked for several years in an environmental consulting firm and then for the Bureau of Reclamation. I did a lot of modeling of water supply, and I loved working with problems in the real world. Finally, though, I decided that I really wanted to do some research and find out how to build better tools. I went back to graduate school, and when I graduated, I got a job as an assistant professor at Syracuse University. I liked NY, but I could not pass up the chance to return to the West when I saw a vacancy at UA. Luckily for me I got the job and here I am!
COS: As a student, what drew you to hydrology and your research on water sustainability?
Laura: Water has always been a fascinating subject for me. Hydrology is a physical science, but the issues we consider relate to all kinds of societal issues. As a student, it felt to me like a subject you could take in a million directions. I liked the idea that my work could provide answers that could make a difference to problems in the real world. I think the other thing that really attracted me was how complex and challenging it is. Understanding and predicting watershed behavior in a changing climate is a major scientific challenge. So if you add human decision making and all the ways we move water and change landscapes, it gets even more messy.
COS: What is your proudest career or academic achievement to date?
Laura: That’s a difficult question. I’m not sure what I’m most proud of, but I would say that getting my NSF CAREER proposal funded was a very affirming experience for me as an early career researcher. I love collaborating with others, so much of the research I do is part of large interdisciplinary teams. This suggestion was a rare experience where I was the only investigator. Getting it accepted helped give me confidence that I had ideas that would stand alone.
COS: What are some of your favorite aspects of working at the university?
Laura: I really love working with students. There are many career paths you can take as an academic, and I believe that one of the unique benefits of being a professor is the opportunity to work directly with students. I enjoy teaching degree and undergraduate classes, and I am fortunate to supervise a wonderful group of doctoral students in their research. I am always inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity that students add to their work. They keep it interesting and help me remember the bigger reasons why we do this research in the first place.
COS: Outside the office, what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?
Laura: I spend a lot of time on my computer at work, so when I’m not working, I love to be active and out. I like to run and cycle on terrain and take my dog for a walk. I’m also getting used to the Tucson climate and trying to learn how to grow cacti and gardens in the desert, which is a fun challenge. My husband and I both love good food, so we always cook and try new restaurants in the area.
Learn more about Dr. Condon here.
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