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HBCU Grad Behind NOAA Total Solar Eclipse Imagery

WASHINGTON — Well before the nation’s first total solar eclipse dominated the headlines of every news organization in America, it was affixed to the mind of Jamese Sims.

Sims, a native of Meridian, Miss., graduate of two historically black universities and one of the few African-American women in the field of scientific engineering and meteorology, is part of the reason you and millions of Americans could see the stunning images of the eclipse on broadcast news stations, web pages, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

A graduate of Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., and Howard University in the District, Sims is the product manager for the groundbreaking GOES-16 Satellite that provided the images of the eclipse millions of Americans saw.

Sims worked on developing the satellite imagery with a team of scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where she works on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, commonly referred to as GOES.

Sims came to the world of weather and satellites almost by happenstance. She recalls how growing up as a young girl in Mississippi, her grandmother would predict the weather based on how she felt. As for Sims, she says she marveled at how the weather was so different from her hometown when she visited her family in Indiana. Initially, however, weather and science was not a career choice.

Sims began college with plans of becoming an accountant, but a persistent algebra teacher at Jackson State, Ms. Brookins, started her into the lane that would essentially set her life on a different track.

“One day, she called me up to her desk and she said, ‘Sims, what’s you major again?’ And so, I said, ‘Ms. Brookins, my major is accounting.’ She said, ‘No, you need to go across the hall to the physics department because I can tell by the way that you think and the way that you answer your questions, that you are a scientist and that’s what your major needs to be.'”

It wasn’t long afterwards that Sims worked as an intern at NOAA during her undergraduate years as part of a NOAA’s scholarship program. Later, while working on her doctorate degree at Howard, Sims did another NOAA internship, this time in Miami, at the Hurricane Research Division. Her internship led to a fulltime position at NOAA studying the Gulf Stream that runs through the Atlantic from the Caribbean past Africa. She also studied hurricane patterns.

In 2016, she joined the GOES team.

Sims was recently named a NOAA 2017 employee of the quarter. According to NOAA, she “champions and supports the development and implementation of weather satellite products to meet customer needs within cost and schedule of project plans.”

Sims said her education at historically black universities was important to her success.

“I have two HBCUs under my belt and I am definitely a promoter of HBCUs,” she said. “I gained not just academic expertise, but HBCUs go the extra mile in teaching our students about professional development and pushing the students to pursue internships.”

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