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Melinda Berman

Profile picture for Melinda Berman

Contact Information

Natural History Building
1301 W Green St
Urbana, IL 61801
Predoctoral Fellow, Advisors: Drs. Stephen Nesbitt and Robert Trapp


I joined the Department of Atmospheric Sciences in Fall 2021 as a master's student being co-advised by Drs. Stephen Nesbitt and Robert J. Trapp working on overshooting convection. I earned my MS degree from the department in May 2023 and am continuing on to my Ph.D. In June 2022, I was awarded a NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) fellowship to research how thermodynamics in the upper troposphere-lower stratosphere impact overshooting tops. I also was part of the Propagation, Evolution and Rotation in Linear Storms (PERiLS) field campaign in Spring 2022/3. In addition to my research, I currently serve as a student member on the planning committee for the Atmospheric Sciences Section for the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting and as a member of the Student Board for Professional Development for the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

Within the department, I have also served on the DEI committee and am an officer in Department of Atmospheric Sciences Student Organization (DASSO). I was the DEI Chair for DASSO from 2022-2023 and currently serve as the President (2023-2024). I am also involved with outreach events, especially those with the DOWs and other FARM facilities. 

I earned my bachelor's degree in June 2021 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Environmental Sciences. While there, I was an undergraduate student researcher in the Saide group working on improving quantification of burned area from satellite active fire detections. That work was recently published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. Additionally, I was a Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) intern at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey, CA researching stratospheric aerosol loading by pyrocumulonimbus/pyroCb (wildfire-driven thunderstorms) during the summers of 2019, 2020 and 2021 with Dr. David Peterson. During the summer of 2019, I was also a member of the forecasting team on the Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) field campaign. My role was to produce outlooks for the potential for pyroconvection at fires of interest and also lead the development of forecasts for the NOAA Twin Otter and ground-based platforms during the latter portion of FIREX-AQ. 

Outside of my research, I love to hike, cook, bake, knit and crochet. I am also a passionate supporter of the Chicago White Sox, the UCLA Bruins and of course, the Fighting Illini.


Research Interests

Severe thunderstorms and related hazards

Fire weather 

Remote sensing

Research Description

My research focuses on the dynamics of overshooting tops and how the environment impacts what is observed from satellites. In addition to my OT research, I am passionate about all things convective weather from the surface to the stratosphere. To that end, I have done research on intense pyroconvection as an undergraduate and also assisted the PERiLS field campaign to better understand tornadogenesis and dynamics in QLCS storm systems. I hope to connect my current research to surface based hazards to aid in forecasting and prediction in the future. 


Ph.D. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (in progress)

M.S. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (May 2023)

B.S. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles (June 2021)

Awards and Honors

NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Recipient 

Outstanding Student Presentation Award (OSPA), American Geophysical Union Fall 2020 Meeting

Additional Campus Affiliations

Department of Atmospheric Science Student Organization (DASSO) President 2023-2024

DASSO DEI Chair 2022-2023

Department of Atmospheric Science DEI Committee

Recent Presentations

Berman M., R. Trapp, S. Nesbitt, L. Di Girolamo, Y. Hong, E. Wolff, Understanding the Impact of the Lowermost Stratospheric Thermodynamic Environment on Observed Overshooting Top Characteristics. American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, Chicago, IL, 12 December 2022, Abstract A12K-125, Aerosol, Cloud, Convection and Precipitation in the Coming Decade of Earth Observations from Space II (poster). 

Berman M., D. Peterson, W. Julstrom, M. Fromm, R. Servranckx, E. Hyer, J. Campbell, P. Saide,  Quantifying the Impact of Intense Pyroconvection on Stratospheric Aerosol Loading with a Multi-Year Inventory. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 17 December 2021, Abstract A52F-02, Remote Sensing of Fire Processes and Biomass Burning Emissions I. (talk)

Berman M., X. Ye, L. Thapa, D. Peterson, E. Hyer, A. Soja, E. Gargulinski, I. Csiszar, C. Schmidt, P. Saide, Quantifying Burned Area of Wildfires from Satellite Active Fire Detections. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 17 December 2021, Abstract U55A-08, Student Engagement to Enhance Development: Outstanding Student Presentation Award Winners from Fall Meeting 2020 V. (eLightning)

Berman M., P. Saide, X. Ye, L. Thapa, D. Peterson, E. Hyer, A. Soja, Quantifying Burn Area of Wildfires from Satellite Active Fire Detections. American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, virtual, 9 December 2020, Abstract B044-04, Fire–Vegetation Interactions and Ecosystem Resilience in a Warmer World I. (talk) 



Recent Publications

Berman, M.T., Ye, X., Thapa, L.H., Peterson, D.A., Hyer, E.J., Soja, A.J., Gargulinski, E.M., Csiszar, I., Schmidt, C.C. and Saide, P.E., 2023. Quantifying burned area of wildfires in the western United States from polar-orbiting and geostationary satellite active-fire detections. International Journal of Wildland Fire.