Staff Spotlight: Hannah Zanowski

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Hannah posing for a photo onboard a shipHannah joined JISAO as a postdoctoral research associate in February 2017.  She is a polar oceanographer working with Greg Johnson, Kyle Armour, Cecilia Bitz, and Eric Steig. Hannah is primarily interested in understanding ocean variability around Antarctica and how the imprint of this variability is both communicated to and transported in the deep and abyssal oceans. At present she is working on two different projects. The first employs high-resolution coupled climate models to quantify the role of local and large-scale winds in driving temperature changes on the West Antarctic continental shelf. The second employs the Argo dataset to characterize the velocity variance in the Equatorial Pacific. While this project deviates wildly from Hannah’s polar ocean modeling background, it has given her the opportunity to work with oceanographic observations which is a goal that she has had for some time.

Hannah’s love of the ocean began as a child with camping trips on the beach in Mexico and visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Despite these fantastic experiences, it never occurred to her to study the ocean until she was halfway through college. Her first love was astronomy and astrophysics, and to this day a piece of her heart still rightfully belongs to the night sky. Hannah grew up in Arizona and attended the University of Arizona where she earned her B.S. in Physics and Mathematics in 2011. It was during the final year of her undergrad that Hannah began doing research related to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica and decided that she would pursue a Ph.D. in oceanography.

Hannah attended Princeton University for graduate school, where she earned her Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in 2016. As a graduate student, Hannah used climate models to examine how large Antarctic open-ocean polynyas (enormous holes in the winter sea ice) impact the temperature and salinity structure in the abyssal ocean. It was this research that fostered her interest in abyssal ocean circulation. Although the overwhelming majority of Hannah’s time was spent at a computer screen, she was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork on the Southern Ocean from December 2014 to February 2015. She even set foot on Antarctica on New Year’s Day 2015!

During her time at Princeton, Hannah developed and pursued several passions outside of her research. She began kickboxing and karate and holds a brown belt in the latter. She hopes to become a black belt one day, although that particular dream is currently on hold until she finds a permanent job and stops moving around so much.

She also became deeply committed to increasing diversity in science by participating in myriad outreach, mentoring, and teaching programs. For three years Hannah taught math in two New Jersey prisons as part of the NJ-STEP (Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons) program. She has also been a member of MPOWIR (Mentoring Physical Oceanography Women to Increase Retention) since 2016 and has been an exhibitor and panelist for events such as the New York City Girls Computer Science and Engineering Conference and the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab’s annual Young Women’s Conference. In the final year of her Ph.D., Hannah collaborated with a Queens-based artist and created a video about climate change that became a temporary exhibit at the New York Hall of Science.

In her spare time Hannah enjoys spending time in the sun, reading, exercising (especially outdoors!), traveling with her absurdly wonderful boyfriend, woodworking, visiting and adventuring with her sister on the weekends, complaining about the rain, and insulting her friend and fellow postdoc Cristi.