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Four Questions for Wen-Chau Lee
UCAR’s University Visits in Scientific Interaction and Teaching program launched in 2013, and the first participants are returning from their time with university partners. We checked in with Wen-Chau Lee, a senior scientist in the Earth Observing Laboratory who also manages EOL’s Remote Sensing Facility.
Wen-Chau spent three weeks from late October to mid-November at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa in the Department of Meteorology, where he worked with UH faculty and students to provide training on the use of the Doppler on Wheels (DOW) as part of UH’s Hawaiian Educational Radar Opportunity (HERO) program.
What sparked your interest in participating in UVISIT?
I have a long-term working relationship with Michael Bell, who is an assistant professor at UH’s Department of Meteorology. Mike first worked at NCAR as an undergraduate student assistant, then worked part-time here while pursuing a master’s degree at Colorado State University, finishing his PhD at the Naval Postgraduate School in 2009. Mike heads up UH’s HERO (Hawaii Educational Radar Opportunity) program, which included a 3-week visit by the Center for Severe Weather Research’s (CSWR) Doppler on Wheels (DOW). The National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the DOW, supports educational deployments of the radar to universities to provide hands-on learning opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students. NSF funding for HERO also brought in Josh Wurman and Karen Kosiba from CSWR, and a technician to demonstrate the radar’s capabilities to UH students and faculty.
UVISIT supported my participation in HERO, where I had an opportunity to teach the students about the DOW’s capabilities, specifically, and Doppler radar and meteorology more generally. In addition, I gave two lectures, a department seminar, collaborated with Mike on ongoing research, and spent time working one-on-one with two of Mike’s masters and PhD students, whose committees I serve on. In addition, CSWR staff and I participated in a 2-day open house run by the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. During this event, DOW demonstrations were given to about 5,000 K-12 to university-aged students, as well as members of the local media, the public, and university staff.
How did you benefit from the experience?
Lecturing to graduate students on radar meteorology and radar operations was an eye-opening experience. My job was to teach them everything they needed to know about singular Doppler wind retrieval capabilities. While I’ve done similar lectures many times before to radar experts, these couple of lectures offered new challenges. The students needed a grounding in content they had never been exposed to before, which meant that not only did I have to create lectures that included a level of detail I don’t usually need to provide, but I also had to tone down the content to a level a graduate student could understand. I tailored the course material to make it directly relevant to the DOW data collection tasks assigned to the students as part of Mike’s HERO project.
Is there anything you'd like to share with colleagues that might encourage them to participate in the program?
My visit offered a great opportunity to support an early career tenure-track faculty member, as well as a chance to support NSF’s Educational Deployment of the DOW, which is a program that provides students studying atmospheric science with a rare opportunity to have first-hand operational meteorology experience. The opportunity to teach graduate-level classes was one I wouldn’t trade and is an experience I’d highly recommend to my colleagues.
How do you think UH, Manoa benefited from your visit?
This was the first-ever radar deployment on the island of Oahu. So not only did UH students and faculty benefit from the DOW visit, but so did the local National Weather Service (NWS). While four NWS NEXRADs (Next-Generation Radar) were installed in three islands in the State of Hawaii (one each on Kauai and Molokai, and two on the Big Island of Hawaii), the DOW filled a big data hole on the most populated Oahu Island, which has some unique weather characteristics that occur during the fall when mid-latitude cold fronts reach Hawaii, resulting in atmospheric instability. During the DOW deployment, a deep convective storm occurred that everyone was excited to track using the DOW. For the first time ever, those at the Oahu NWS and UH’s Department of Meteorology – which enjoy a close working relationship – had an opportunity to observe and collect radar data affecting their own lives, which had never been possible in this fashion prior to October 2013.