David M. Smith

Atmospheric and Space Electricity



Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Volunteer experience that relates to this position:

Commission member, International Commission on Atmospheric Electricity (ICAE), 2014-present. ICAE members organize meetings of the commission and activities within the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) and International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG); coordinator of Faculty Mentoring for Undergraduates, University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), Physics Department, 2009-present. Gained experience with the concerns of students from a range of backgrounds; chair, undergraduate admissions committee, UCSC, three terms, 2016-present. Organizational leadership experience, working closely with full-time administrators; Atmospheric and Space Electricity section Fall Meeting session co-convener, 2007-2009, 2014, 2016-2020; Franklin Lecture Committee, 2006, 2008.


Council members play critical roles as communication conduits among AGU members and leaders. How will you engage with members of your section to advance AGU’s new strategic plan? How might you facilitate engagement with other sections and people outside AGU to support our mission?

AGU's new strategic plan challenges us to move beyond the status quo regarding equity within our community and engagement with society. The imagination of the whole section membership must be incorporated to make this happen. The president-elect system is well suited to give the new officer the chance to learn not just the mechanics of the job but ways of listening to membership. To expand the range of insights available for these two cornerstones of the strategic plan — equity and engagement — I would discuss with other members of the Atmospheric and Space Electricity leadership team the possibility of establishing standing committees on each topic. Now that we are all gaining additional comfort with videoconferencing, we might consider a midyear business meeting online. 

Videoconferencing could also expand connections with other sections and societies through brief (one-day), highly focused, interdisciplinary virtual conferences. This could expose our student scholars and us to additional ways our future research could benefit society, with a low investment in money, time and carbon. The long-term expansion of virtual options at all our meetings promotes equity and access for student scholars and those unable to travel.

If we are succeeding in recruiting underrepresented scholars to the field, improving their experience as young scholars is particularly important. In my department at UCSC, I ran a successful experiment in improving the academic microclimate in departmental colloquia by reserving the first questions after every talk for students. I believe this could have a transformative effect at the Fall Meeting as well.

Section affiliations:

Atmospheric and Space Electricity; Space Physics and Aeronomy