Texas Tech University

Student Spotlight

Studying Abroad in Dublin 


Dublin City Center looking down the River Liffey. Picture taken from O'Connell Bridge.

By: Daniel Lavery

In the Spring of 2019, instead of making the 9-hour drive from Houston to Lubbock, I took a 9-hour flight to Dublin, Ireland for a semester at University College Dublin. The whole semester put me out of my comfort zone, which resulted in my growth as a person and student.

None of the geosciences courses I registered for had any exact equivalent course at Tech, but the classes helped me in ways that my transcript could not show. A class titled Earth Structure and Geodata began as a review of Geophysics, which I had taken the previous semester at Tech, but by the end of the course, we were studying the beginning portion of Dr. Yoshinobu's Structural Geology course. Another course, Introduction to Field Mapping, included a week-long field trip to Co. Galway to practice geological mapping. The week was a learning experience on keeping a field notebook, making maps, and the best way to safely hop a barbed-wire fence to escape the sheep in that pasture that are beginning to act aggressively. With the exception of the sheep-induced fence-jumping, all of the skills I learned in that course have directly helped me in Structural Geology, I hope I can continue to use those mapping skills in a future job.

The courses I took in Dublin have made me more confident in my reasoning skills. The panicky feeling I felt as a freshman when asked to identify a rock in the Physical Geology lab has dissipated, which I would consider a good step in the right direction. Besides the classroom learning, simply living in Ireland for a semester was good learning experience for dealing with new situations, especially the logistics of traveling and responding flexibly to changes of plan. Some of these new situations involved breaking in my new trail-running shoes as I trail-ran away from an approaching storm on the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland (I lost that footrace when the wind tossed me into a barbed wire fence). I also learned that hitchhiking is not the best (quite possibly the worst) mode of transportation to the port at Holyhead in Wales when you miss your train there. I also learned in the Caving Society how to rig myself up to ascend and descend on ropes into one of many limestone caves in Co. Cavan.

I feel better prepared for further schooling and hopefully a career in geology. I plan to attend graduate school, but I do not know where or what concentration to study. My semester in Dublin taught me to be flexible and to keep my options open, so that is my plan for now.

dan from dublin


Occupational Hazards: Texas Tech's Participation in the Hazardous Weather Testbed

 by Austin Coleman (M.S. student)

Testbed GroupExperimental Forecast Program team May 2019, Austin pictured in front row, third from right, Dr. Brain Ancell directly behind Austin on back row.


Occupational Hazards: Texas Tech's Participation in the Hazardous Weather Testbed

On any typical spring day in May at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, there's more brewing than just storms and coffee. Up the stairs and to the left one walks into a glass room abuzz with the exchange of ideas from one of the most professionally diverse group of meteorologists in the world. This is the NOAA's Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Forecasting Experiment, and this May will mark its twelfth year of conduction. In a nearly literal realization of research to operations, the HWT SFE brings together meteorological researchers and forecasters alike to put a suite of cutting-edge forecast products to the test - by using them to forecast severe weather in real time! Divided into two programs, the Experimental Forecast Program and the Experimental Warning Program, this effort is pivotal to the improvement of forecasts on multiple time scales, from increasing tornado lead times to improving the spatial accuracy of 24-hour hail forecasts.

I first experienced the HWT SFE Experimental Forecast Program last May, although my advisor's (Dr. Brian Ancell) research group has been participating regularly over the past five years. Brian, Aaron Hill (TTU PhD student), and I led evaluation on a product we developed to improve computer model forecasts of hazardous weather at 12- to 48-hour lead times. The technique uses a data mining approach to siphon out early forecast aspects relevant to the prediction of a later high-impact weather event and uses that important information to improve the model forecast. Up to that point my research focused on verifying and optimizing the technique objectively, and seeing the product evaluated from a forecasting perspective was truly eye-opening!

Every week, a new group of forecasters and researchers participated in the program, bringing new perspectives along with them. After explaining how the product works, we would identify the “forecast problem of the day” and focus the post-processing technique on that geographical region. The next day, we verified the forecasts together by comparing the performance of pre-processed Texas Tech model forecasts (link to the TTU system below) with our post-processed model forecasts and discussed the differences. Oftentimes, participants were interpreting and using the technique in ways that I had not previously considered. The diversity of perspectives was instrumental in going forward with the technique and solidified how crucial interdisciplinary perspectives are to a scientific conversation. This year, we return to the HWT with a similar product applied to a much broader suite of models called the CLUE (or the Community Leveraged Unified Ensemble – we meteorologists really do love our acronyms), and with potential for an active severe weather season, I am sure fascinating discoveries await!

The Hazardous Weather Testbed represents an innovative path towards the ultimate end goal of saving lives and property. By bringing researchers and forecasters into one room for an extended period we can better identify the shortcomings in current forecasting and warning techniques, explore proposed solutions to forecasting challenges, and push the boundaries of science. And of course, would it truly be a forecasting experiment without spending some time experiencing the storms being forecast?




norman grimes