Department History: The 1990s and the arrival of the internet

The 1990s were a period of rapid change in the Department,driven by advances incomputer technology, particularly the widespread use of personal computers, the development of the first Internet browser (Mosaic) at the University of Illinois, advances in high speed computing, the widespread use of the Internet, and collaborations with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), which organized on campus in 1986. Under Mohan Ramamurthy’s leadership, the Department launched Weather World 2010, one of the first comprehensive guides to weather on the Internet. Bob Wilhelmson’s brought international visibility to the Department in the area of storm visualization. Under the direction of Michael Schlesinger and of Don Wuebbles, our Department became a force in the climate change arena. During the mid 1990s, Zuangjie Li joined the Department, expanding Department research into laboratory atmospheric chemistry.

A major goal of the Department in the late 1990s was to expand our undergraduate survey courses. In 1997, the Department hired Donna Charlevoix to lead our undergraduate survey classes. Under Donna’s leadership, the number of students in the survey classes ATMS 100 and 120 increased by a factor of almost 20, and our survey courses have become the most popular on campus. For her efforts, Donna received the LAS and Campus Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2003.

Don Wuebbles returned from the Environmental Council to take over the leadership of the Department again in 2000. The turn of the century also brought three new faculty to the Department, Larry Di Girolamo, Greg McFarquhar and Atul Jain. These three additions significantly strengthened the Department’s reputation in the fields of cloud and precipitation physics, radiation, remote sensing, and climate impacts. The Department also expanded in number of graduate students and staff, so much so that we overflowed the building. The University gave us space in Annex I and Annex II, the two infamous rather run down buildings that we still occupy today. Space remains an issue with the Department, a problem which we hope to solve by moving into the Natural History Building following its renovation.

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