“Driving around the state of Mississippi, playing and singing songs about weather, and my family traveling alongside me. You never dream that,” said Robert S. “Bob” Swanson, an instructor and lab coordinator for MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “My life story has taken a path I never would have written for myself, but it’s been very exciting.”
Also known as Stormin’ Bob Swanson, the “singing weatherman,” Swanson has made a name for himself using music to educate his audiences about science. He typically spends his summers making approximately 60 stops across Mississippi for performances at libraries and schools. This year, he instead created a YouTube video for educators to use during the pandemic.
“My winding path of education, meteorology, astronomy and science all have led to me being invited to give talks to school children,” said Swanson, who has a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Scranton and a master’s in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. With no background in teaching small children, Swanson said his first presentation was “so lousy I realized I needed to spice things up.”
“I started writing weather songs and became the singing weatherman,” he said.
A native of Perry County, Pennsylvania, Swanson’s path to MSU in 2019 began with a guitar. “Quite often there will be more applicants than jobs,” Swanson said. “What can you do to be unique? Bringing a guitar to a job interview for a physics position is certainly unique and differentiated me from the competition.”
Throughout his years of singing presentations, Swanson continually has added more instruments such as the harmonica, banjo, mandolin, and piano accordion, combining science education and music education.
Finding ways to stand out in any career path is an “important life and job-seeking skill” Swanson hopes to pass along to his students.
“My main career is teaching, and my secondary career is a ‘teaching musician,’” said the former high school and community college educator. “I can’t imagine not teaching. I tell my students that if you have an area of real passion, try to earn a living doing that.”
“We all have expertise in something. Find a way to pass that along to other people. Share what you are good at doing. We can benefit each other if we can share, so even if you are not a teacher, be a teacher.”
For more information on the singing weatherman, visit www.storminswanson.com.