Forecasting Her Future: Former Fox News meteorologist pursues Ph.D. at CMU
When Hurricane Sandy devastated the state of New York in 2012, Maria Molina Timmer was the Fox News anchor announcing it to a national audience.
Now the meteorologist is working to take her career to the next level — right here at Central Michigan University.
After spending six years at Fox News, Timmer enrolled this semester at CMU to pursue an Earth and Ecosystem science doctorate degree.
Timmer will continue researching severe weather and climate at CMU. She started with Dr. John Allen at Columbia University while earning her Masters.
Central Michigan Life spoke with Timmer to learn more about her career and what she hopes to accomplish during her time at CMU.
CM LIFE: Why did you decide to leave Fox News and get a Ph.D.?
TIMMER: For me, education has always been important. When my parents were in Nicaragua, they aspired to be scientists. However, because of the situation that was going on in Nicaragua in terms of politics, they were unable to pursue their dreams in academia. It was always important for me to go to school, pursue whatever dream career I had and try to go as far as I could. When I was a freshman at Florida State, I began working on an undergraduate thesis, did some independent research and I knew in that moment I wanted to get my Ph.D.
Have you thought about what you plan to do after you get your degree? You said you might want to return to Fox News.
I have thought about it, but that would be three years from now. I learned things can really change because I never imagined myself to be in Michigan. I know I love working in media. I think it’s a really important and powerful place to work in, so I would return. I do love research as well and science. Ideally, I would do both somehow. We’ll see.
You were hired at Fox News in 2010. What was that experience like, being in front of millions of people every day and working in that environment?
The first time I went live at Fox News Channel, I was terrified. It was my first time going live on national TV. I received a lot of advice — a lot of training. I worked with great people who coached me prior to that moment. Once they put me on there, I felt like I was ready so I was able to get over my nerves and make it through the first newscast. Over the next several months, you kind of start to get used to it and get better at it.
Do you have a favorite memory being on that network?
I think covering Hurricane Sandy. I grew in South Florida and I went through several tropical storms and hurricanes. When I lived in New York, I never thought I would be dealing with some kind of tropical system. I wanted to become a meteorologist when I was five years old when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. To be put in the position where I was telling people what to expect, or what could happen, that was pretty special.
How do you like Mount Pleasant and CMU so far? How is it different from Manhattan?
Now I’m driving, which I was not doing when I lived in Manhattan. I think it’s the perfect place to live when you’re trying to get a Ph.D. because you kind of need to be close to your school. I know where all the Starbucks are already. There aren’t many distractions, although we do have the Soaring Eagle. I haven’t been there yet. I’m just focused on school and making sure I get this done. When you share with everyone that you’re going to pursue a Ph.D., you better not fail.
Why did you decide this was the right time to pursue your Ph.D.?
I thought about it a lot for many, many months. I kind of thought about all angles — the fact that I’d be living in a different town, and it wouldn’t be New York City, which I loved. It would be a different type of industry — it wouldn’t be media — it would be academia and research. I thought about it so much for so many months — I even drove my husband a little bit crazy — that I felt like once this moment came and it was time to move, I was ready for it.
I kind of knew what to expect, I did some research, I looked at Mount Pleasant and I looked at where we were going to be living. I don’t feel any kind of shock or anything. It just feels right. It just feels like what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
You were born in Nicaragua, moved to South Florida, worked at Fox News and you are now at CMU. Did you expect this at all? Do you ever look back and say “Wow?”
I think in life you have to follow what your gut says you should be doing next. I think it’s important to not get too comfortable, even if it’s your dream job. It’s important to keep pushing yourself and being in situations where you are unsure you are going to succeed, but you want to succeed in anything you want to do. I’m not too surprised with the randomness of it. I think everyone should really pursue their dreams, whatever it is they want to do.