Sarah Kapnick, M.S. ’07, Ph.D. ’11

Posted On - March 9, 2023

Sarah Kapnick, M.S. ’07, Ph.D. ’11, is the recipient of the 2023 Young Alumnus of the Year award for her significant professional achievements. Kapnick is a passionate researcher who has turned her love for math puzzles into real-world climate science predictions that will have a profound impact.

Dr. Kapnick’s research predicts extreme water-related weather events. She was recently appointed by the Biden-Harris administration to serve as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Chief Scientist, the third woman ever to hold the title. She received her master's degree from UCLA in atmospheric sciences and her doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences with a certificate in leaders in sustainability from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Her annual philanthropic support of UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Chair's Discretionary Fund is important to the health of the department. She has made it a priority to give of her time to mentor early career scientists, with a focus on women in STEM fields.

Prior to joining NOAA, Kapnick advocated to create a position with J.P. Morgan, “at the intersection of climate science and economics.” Her vision for this role speaks to her understanding of the responsibility of corporations to keep climate health at the forefront of financial decision-making.

She has been invited to speak across the country and has received numerous awards for her research. Her work has been published in academic journals and reports, and has been featured in media outlets such as The Washington Post, USA Today and CNN. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Kapnick’s accomplishments represent the power of education to lead change. Its impact reaches beyond academics, in her belief that individuals, corporations and governments can make choices to mitigate climate change. In her position at the NOAA, she is a powerful voice in leading the way to address a pressing challenge of our lifetime.

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