Cool College Projects: Chasing a Dream and a Storm

Michelle Grossman | July 30, 2013

Cool College Projects: Chasing a Dream and a Storm For most of us, all we know about tornados is that we don’t want to get sucked up into one like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” (or maybe we do, what happened to her was kind of cool). But two students from Western Illinois University have been given the opportunity to further understand tornado formation in order to increase our predictive capability and ultimately provide better warning lead times, as well as fewer false alarms.

Assistant Professor Marcus Büker, who teaches meteorology in Western’s Department of Geography, received a nearly $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in October 2011. With the help of the three-year grant, Büker and students Jacob Vancil, a junior, and Alexander Adams, a sophomore, have been studying the fundamental physics behind tornado development.

For Vancil and Adams the research began last summer, as they first had to learn the computer language, math, and physics they would need to be a part of the project. This summer, the two students are getting more in depth, as the research is more than just a 40-hour-a-week summer job.

This past January the students presented the findings from their first summer of research in a presentation at the American Meterological Society Conference in Austin, Texas. A second presentation is scheduled for 2014, and the research will also eventually be a part of each student’s senior thesis project.

Both Vancil and Adams have always been fascinated by weather patterns, so this project has not only been an amazing opportunity, but a dream come true – one they can keep living – as Büker was recently informed that the NSF will be funding a third summer of research.

Inspiring, isn’t it? College isn’t just about preparing you for the future, but also taking advantage of the “now.” Figure out what you love, and get involved in it. After all, there’s no day like today.

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