After months of conducting in-depth research, Pamela Eck ’15 and Augusta Williams ’15 recently had all of their hard work pay off when they each presented a project at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting held in Austin, Texas.
At the five day-event, which drew hundreds of attendees, Williams and Eck not only shared the findings of their respective studies, but also had the chance to learn about current meteorological research and network with peers, scholars and professionals from across the country. Williams’ study investigated how severe weather systems, such as thunderstorms, interact with the Great Lakes, while Eck examined weather records to understand how extreme precipitation events can distort monthly averages.
“Presenting my research was such an incredible experience,” Eck says. “I learned how to formally present my research in a scientific manner, which is an invaluable skill to have as I move forward along my career path. I also learned a lot about preparing for graduate school and the various types of jobs available to meteorologists during the sessions that were offered during the student sessions.”
Under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz, Eck and Williams began their research last year during the HWS 2012 Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Metz says the program was a “launching pad” for the students’ ideas, helping them to generate long-term research projects.
“The Summer Research Program gives participating students the ability to begin a great research project,” Metz says. “From there, the sky is the limit.”
The two research projects not only offered an important entrance into the academic dialogue on meteorology for the two undergraduates, but the focus of their research can also be applied in practice, Metz says.
“This type of research can have important implications for those working in agriculture or who deal with meteorological issues in different industries,” Metz says.
For her research, Eck, who is a geoscience and environmental studies double major, looked at daily precipitation totals for different U.S. cities. The totals can be used to calculate the average amount of monthly precipitation in each city, she says; however, the averages do not take into account precipitation distribution.
“Regardless of whether a city receives one inch of rain every day for 30 days or 30 inches of rain on one day and then total drought on the other 29 days, the average monthly precipitation total for that month would be the same,” Eck says.
Williams, a biology and geoscience double major, conducted research that examined the persistence or dissipation of storms as they moved across Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario.
“I looked at archived data to see whether or not these storms were persisting or dissipating,” Williams says. “There are several highly populated cities downstream, including Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Since these storms can produce severe winds, hail, and even tornadoes if severe enough, it is important to know how to forecast them downstream of the Great Lakes.”
The studies conducted by Eck and Williams are examples of the outstanding research opportunities available to undergraduates at the Colleges, Metz says. In addition, Eck and Williams have shown clear dedication to their academic pursuits, he says.
“They both have a great work ethic and the quality of their work is impressive,” Metz says. “They will be well-prepared for after graduation.”
An active member of the campus community, Eck is a member of the Colleges’ percussion ensemble and a tour guide on campus for the Office of Admissions. She says being able to attend research conferences through HWS has been a great addition to her undergraduate experience.
Williams, who has her sights set on graduate school, says her time at the Colleges has been a great experience, helping her to develop the necessary skills and knowledge base to follow her passions. A geoscience teaching assistant and Teaching Fellow, Williams currently is completing an honors project using weather radar to track bird migrations.
“I have remained extremely passionate about both biology and meteorology, and I think my equal love for the two fields is shown in my research interests,” Williams says. “I have a research aims specifically related to weather, some specifically related to biology, and my honors project actively combines the two fields. I’ve had a truly amazing experience here at HWS and at the Colleges I’ve been able to combine my interests exactly how I would like to.”