The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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McLaughlin Delivers Distinguished Faculty Lecture

On April 4, Professor David J. McLaughlin from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering presented "Chasing Interdisciplinarity while Chasing Tornadoes" as part of the 2011-2012 UMass Amherst Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series. McLaughlin also received the Chancellor's Medal, the highest honor bestowed to faculty by the campus. The Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, conceived by Professor McLaughlin and his collaborators, comprises a dense network of small radars that communicate with one another to sense hazardous weather patterns and distribute accurate warnings to people who need them. McLaughlin articulated the social, policy, behavioral, and technical interface issues around the use of CASA in weather-determined decision making and response.

Recent catastrophic tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and even Springfield, Massachusetts, along with increasingly severe and anomalous weather patterns worldwide, have placed a high premium on weather centers that observe, understand, predict, and respond to hazardous weather with greatest accuracy.

Not just a collaboration among radar engineers, CASA also represents an interdisciplinary effort by meteorologists, sociologists, geographers, computer scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, and partners from the public and private sectors—all of whom are subject to the weather. (March 2012)