Inez Fung, a climatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was born and raised in Hong Kong. After graduating from King’s College, she moved to the United States and earned her bachelor of science in applied mathematics from MIT. She continued her education at MIT, studying how spiral rainbands in a hurricane are organized, and she became the second woman to graduate from MIT with a doctoral degree in Meteorology.
She then joined the National Academy of Sciences, where she worked as a research associate and afterwards she worked at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. In 1986, the Observatory promoted her to an adjunct associate research scientist, and she was hired as a physical scientist for the NASA Goddard Center, where she served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Climate Research Committee. She now works at the University of California, Berkeley in both the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. She is also the co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment. She has done extensive work on climate modeling, biogeochemical cycles, and climate change and has been a contributing author in the International Panel on Climate Change’s 3rd and 4th Assessment reports.
Fung’s main research focus addresses changing patterns of precipitation through the analysis of East and South Asian monsoons. Her research has also led her to study how trees access water in California’s dry summers and cool the atmosphere. By studying these changes, Fung has highlighted what influences the location, timing and intensity of precipitation, improving our projections of how that could change in the future. “It’s very important for us living on Earth enjoying the biosphere, enjoying the outdoors, to know how things are changing and to understand why things are changing,” says Fung. She is also the founding director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center. “I think nature is always smarter than me,” says Fung. “When I think I’ve got it, there’s another puzzle that nature presents to me.”
Image: Peg Skorpinski, 2007