Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chasing Tornados and Searching for a Dean

Photo - Tornado from Vortex - courtesy NOAA

This year my husband is on sabbatical at the NSF (National Science Foundation) ERC (Engineering Research Center) at UMass Amherst, known as CASA, which stands for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere. The Center's Director is Dr. David McLaughlin, a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UMass Amherst. This center involves other universities, including University of Oklahoma and the University of Puerto Rico, that conduct research in the science of the atmosphere and in the prediction of weather, including tornados. Today's Boston Globe had a feature article on the science of predicting tornados, which noted the work at UMass Amherst; see:

I enjoy hearing the stories that my husband comes home with -- from the students driving the truck with the radars from Amherst to Oklahoma and back -- to the logistics involved in finding housing for the researchers as they literally chase tornados in real-time. The research that is conducted under the auspices of this ERC is critical and is fascinating from scientific and practical perspectives. Weather affects everything that we do and the precise prediction of dangerous weather can literally save lives. Plus, the decision-making surrounding extreme weather events involves many stakeholders from government planners to news agencies to citizens. Hence, projects that CASA undertakes also stimulate research in optimal distributed/decentralized decision-making and networks, which is one of my research passions.

As academics, we teach, we conduct research, and we do service to our universities and professions plus communities. This semester I am serving on the Search Committee for the new Dean of the Isenberg School of Management. Dr. Tony Butterfield has been serving as the Interim Dean of the Isenberg School for the past two years and the school is poised for new levels of achievement in research and education. The Search Committee has members not only from the Isenberg School but also from other departments at UMass Amherst, as well as administrators, students, including one of my doctoral students, Patrick Qiang, and a representative from our Business Advisory Council, Mr. Paul McDonald, who is also an alum. The committee is chaired by the Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Mike Malone. The committee is terrific and we have been very busy identifying finalists for the position who have already started to come to campus to meet with the students, faculty, staff, members of the Business Advisory Council, and committee. We are all very excited about identifying our new Dean and leader.