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May 22, 2023

Five current and incoming students receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, DOE Computational Graduate Fellowship

Five current and incoming students have received prestigious graduate fellowships. Current student Angelie Nieves Jiménez and incoming students Delián Colón Borgos, Killian McSweeney, and Nick Mesa have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (NSF GRFP). Current student Amanda Bowden was awarded the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF).

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support.

Nieves Jiménez proposed modeling rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones in environments where the dynamics that affect rainfall location can be modified. Her drive to study tropical cyclones stems from a desire to give back to the community and the island of Puerto Rico where she grew up. During her first year in the master’s program, her work focused on analyzing a devastating hurricane that made landfall in Puerto Rico, with rainfall being the major impact.

“This award allows me to continue this research and my studies in this area while also gaining field experience and collaborating with renowned scientists,” said Nieves Jiménez. “Receiving this award would not have been possible without the support of my advisor Dr. Michael M. Bell, and my mentors, Dr. Rosimar Rios-Berríos and Dr. Joshua J. Alland. I particularly want to extend my gratitude to my Mom, Dad, brother, and friends, who constantly support and reassure me, from Puerto Rico.”

Incoming student Colón Burgos is also from Puerto Rico and wanted her proposal to directly support research on the threats the island faces from the rainfall of tropical cyclones. The impacts of inland flooding can be very localized and difficult to predict due to the varying topography of islands, and the goal of her proposal is to better the interactions that take place between Puerto Rican topography and tropical cyclones at landfall. Colón Burgos said, “This includes understanding the dynamics and thermodynamic processes of how the topography and surface enthalpy fluxes in the island of PR influence the structure of TCs from observations and model output; and examining how these changes in structure modulate the rainfall in the island.”

Colón Burgos will be advised by Bell and will work with him to design a project inclusive of her proposal as well as the Bell research group’s goals. She has deferred her NSF GRFP for a year so that she can receive a Walter Scott, Jr. Graduate Research Assistantship.

McSweeney, also starting in the master’s program this fall, submitted a research proposal focused on better understanding the relationship between snow cover extent, the timing of snow melt, and the circulation in the Arctic atmosphere in the following summer. His proposal was also interested in understanding how a large ensemble of global climate models compares to observations/reanalysis data in representing this.

“My preliminary results relied primarily on understanding the change to the vertical temperature gradient between 700 [hPa] and 850 [hPa] from the ‘present’ period of 2000-2020 to the ‘future’ of 2080-2100,” McSweeney explained. “There was introductory evidence linking snow cover change to these vertical temperature gradient changes, which is a promising start for trying to understand the influence of snow cover on the following summer’s Arctic atmospheric circulation.”

McSweeney earned a BS in Atmospheric Science from the University of Georgia-Athens and will join Maria Rugenstein’s group.

Mesa wants to tackle two critical challenges in the field of tropical meteorology with his NSF GRFP proposal: how do tropical cyclones (TCs) overcome moderate vertical wind shear to intensify, and how can we resolve the gaps in temporally and spatially varying observations of TCs? To answer these questions, his proposal sought to compile near-coincident observations from various instruments to conduct a novel, multi-scale, composite analysis of TCs facing moderate vertical wind shear. Multiple diagnostic products were proposed to be derived from these near-coincident observations to determine patterns such as trends in mid-level relative humidity in the upshear quadrants of the storm and the distribution of different types of convection. “This proposal served as a continuation of my work as a NOAA William M. Lapenta Scholar with the Hurricane Research Division in 2021, where I worked with Drs. Robert Rogers and Jonathan Zawislak.”

Mesa will join Michael Bell’s group this fall and has also chosen to defer his NSF GRFP to accept an American Meteorological Society Graduate Fellowship for his first year. In the future, his GRFP funding will help support “my research and collaboration on this topic with scientists from CSU, CIRA, CIMAS at the University of Miami, and the Hurricane Research Division,” Mesa said. He received a BS in Atmospheric Science from the University of Florida.

Bowden was awarded the DOE CSGF. Per the official press release announcing the 2023-24 class, this fellowship provides outstanding benefits and opportunities renewable up to 4 years to students pursuing doctoral degrees in fields that use high-performance computing to solve complex science and engineering problems. Bowden and her cohort will also have the opportunity to intern at any DOE laboratory during their fellowships. Bowden is currently advised by Eric Maloney but will work on her proposed doctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder under the guidance of Dr. Kris Karnauskas. She will be co-advised by Maloney.

Bowden’s proposed research is to evaluate how Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) activity change in a future climate impacts atmospheric rivers (ARs) and tropical cyclones (TCs) using Community Earth System Model 2 (CESM2). The MJO becoming stronger in a warmer environment could result in stronger enhanced and suppressed phases, which causes its modulation of ARs and TCs to become stronger, as well as its impact on vulnerable communities . Areas of interest include the societal impacts on tropical islands and coastline communities, which are vulnerable communities to the effects of climate change and intense storms.

Congratulations to all fellowship recipients!

Photos from left to right: Angelie Nieves Jiménez, Delián Colón Borgos, Killian McSweeney, Nick Mesa, Amanda Bowden.