News - 5/21/09

Better weather forecasts aim of radar partnership

Pilots of small aircraft may fly more safely in the future thanks to Valpo's state-of-the-art Doppler radar system and its more detailed observations of the atmosphere.

The University recently signed an agreement with Lincoln Laboratory, a federally-funded research center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which it is providing radar data used to develop weather prediction products for the next generation of National Weather Service Doppler radar sites.

"Valpo's dual-polarization Doppler radar is one of the first operational radars of its type in the country," said Dr. Teresa Bals-Elsholz, assistant professor of geography and meteorology. "The National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration are both interested in preparing forecasting products that take advantage of the enhanced capabilities of dual-polarization Doppler radar to better predict icing and severe weather."

An FAA grant to Lincoln Laboratory is providing Valpo funding of $112,000 annually for three years to support a visiting research scientist and three undergraduate student interns each year.

Dr. Bals-Elsholz noted that in-flight icing regularly contributes to small plane crashes, making more accurate predictions that help pilots avoid hazardous weather an important goal for the FAA.

"Valpo's radar can see winter weather such as lake effect snow and icing events that few other dual-polarization radars can see," she said. "We're located here at the southern end of Lake Michigan in a unique position to collect valuable meteorological information and the Chicago area is a very busy flight corridor, so we hope Valpo's partnership with Lincoln Lab ultimately leads to improved forecasts and potentially saves lives."

Dual-polarization Doppler works by sending out horizontal and vertical microwaves at the same time, rather than alternating between the two. That allows meteorologists to capture a three-dimensional picture of the atmosphere, which Dr. Bals-Elsholz said should allow for more accurate detection of differences in precipitation.

Many National Weather Service radar sites will be adding dual-polarization technology over the next five years, making the development of software that interprets the more accurate observations essential.

Helping lead the development of new software products from Valpo's Doppler data is Dr. Raquel Evaristo, who came to Valpo earlier this spring to serve as a visiting scientist in radar and aviation meteorology. Dr. Evaristo recently earned her Ph.D. from France's Centre d'Etudes Terrestres et Planetaires, and her research focused on Doppler radar.

Dr. Bals-Elsholz said Valpo's student interns will support the project by launching balloons during weather conducive to icing in order to compare the balloon observations with Doppler radar data.

"Our students are getting some valuable experience using our radar to forecast in-flight icing," she said.

Dr. Bals-Elsholz said the research provides another opportunity for Valpo meteorology students to gain familiarity with a state-of-the-art radar system before it is widely deployed, complementing the Doppler radar's use in numerous courses including a radar meteorology class.

The Doppler radar is the centerpiece of a $7.5 million project that included construction of Kallay-Christopher Hall, which opened in 2005 as the home of Valpo's Department of Geography and Meteorology. Valpo's radar is able to collect data up to 125 miles away, allowing observations of weather from Milwaukee to Fort Wayne to Indianapolis.

Faculty named senior research professors

A renowned author, a mathematician and a scholar of French literature who are long-time members of Valpo's faculty have been named senior research professors.

Walt Wangerin, Emil and Elfriede Jochum University professor; Dr. David Hull, associate professor of mathematics and computer science; and Dr. William Olmsted, professor of humanities, will assume three-year appointments effective July 1.

Wangerin came into national prominence as author of The Book of the Dun Cow, which won the National Book Award and was named "Best Children's Book of the Year" by The New York Times. He is widely known as a speaker, storyteller and author of more than 30 books, ranging from fiction to children's stories to practical theology and devotionals.

Wangerin has taught writing and theology at Valpo since 1991. He was speaker for the Lutheran Vespers radio program from 1994 through January 2005, and before coming to Valpo served as pastor of an inner-city Lutheran congregation in Evansville.

During the next three years, Wangerin plans to focus on continued and future writing projects and speaking engagements. His current writing projects include a book of new poetry, a new children's book and a novel. Wangerin also will participate in a number of regional and national speaking engagements and is pursuing a potential film project.

Dr. Olmsted joined Valpo's faculty in 1972 and his seminars "Poe and Baudelaire," "Dostoyevsky's World" and "Inventing the Body" have been perennially popular choices among students in Christ College (Valpo's interdisciplinary honors college). He is a scholar of 19th and 20th French literature and painting.

He plans to work on a book-length study of the effects of censorship on modernist writers such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Freud and Proust.

Dr. Hull joined Valpo's faculty in 1983, and he recently presented his paper "Elementary proofs for certain extinction in bisexual Galton-Watson branching processes" at the Workshop on Branching Processes and their Applications in Spain.

As senior research professor, Dr. Hull plans to continue his research on the mathematical model for the bisexual Galton-Watson branching process in conjunction with colleagues at the University of Extremadura in Spain. Dr. Hull was invited to speak at an international conference in Bulgaria following his recent presentation in Spain, and his research will consider simplifying the proofs of known theorems for certain extinction, developing theory regarding the time to extinction and applying the bisexual process to Mendelian genetics.

Economics professor honored for teaching

Dr. Jaishankar Raman, associate professor of economics, has been named recipient of Valparaiso University's prestigious Caterpillar Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Caterpillar Award is presented annually to a committed and effective Valpo professor who displays proven excellence in engaging and empowering students, in using innovative methods of teaching and in enhancing the personal, intellectual and spiritual growth of students.

Other nominees for the award were Dr. Zuhdi Aljobeh, associate professor of civil engineering; Dr. Martin Buinicki, assistant professor of English; Craig Clark, assistant professor of geography and meteorology; Elizabeth Gingerich, associate professor of business law; Dr. Ken Luther, associate professor of mathematics and computer science; Dr. Nola Schmidt, associate professor of nursing; and Dr. Nelly Zamora- Breckenridge, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures.

Dr. Raman and the other nominees were recognized as models for exemplary teaching at a recent reception.

Dr. Raman serves as adviser to Valpo's chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, which recently advanced to a SIFE USA National Exposition competition on efforts to promote free enterprise for the second consecutive year. His research has focused on economic liberalization programs in emerging markets such as China, India and Mexico, as well as the economic development of regions and international economics.

This spring, Dr. Raman was a featured presenter at the international conference "Organizational Effectiveness in Economic Slowdown," co-sponsored by Valpo and the Institute of Management Technology in India. He discussed the causes, impact and potential remedies for the worldwide financial meltdown during 2008 at the conference in New Delhi.

He earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Notre Dame, his master's degree from Fordham University and his bachelor's degree from Ramnarain Ruia College in Mumbai.

The University's Committee to Enhance Learning and Teaching selects the recipient from nominations made by students and other members of the campus community.