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WTAMU Professor Receives NSF-CAREER Award for Tornado Research

March 20, 2018

CONTACT:    Dr. Arn Womble, 806-651-2507, awomble@wtamu.edu        

WTAMU Professor Receives NSF-CAREER Award for Tornado Research

 

Dr. Arn Womble, assistant professor of civil engineering at West Texas A&M University, is the winner of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award competition, making him the first WTAMU faculty member to ever receive this coveted honor.

The CAREER Award is the most prestigious award given by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is awaDr. Arn Womblerded “in support of the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.”

The 5-year, $500,000 grant provides funding for research in the study of tornado effects on the natural and built environments. The grant also enables WTAMU undergraduate engineering students to work in collaboration with graduate students and faculty researchers at well-established research programs in the United States and Canada, including the Texas Tech University National Wind Institute and the University of Western Ontario.

The overall project aims to advance the knowledge of complex tornado-structure interactions, estimation of tornado intensity and detection of tornado occurrences via safe, reliable, efficient, and cutting-edge remote-sensing technologies at scales ranging from minute structural deformations to the overall tornado-path level. The project is expected to provide validation methods for physical and numerical tornado load simulations, to facilitate adjustments to wind speed estimates in the Enhanced Fujita Scale and to explore optimization of high-resolution imaging platforms to most effectively advance the understanding of tornado effects on the natural and built environments.

A major goal of this project is the rapid and comprehensive assessment of tornado damage to structures through the use of remote-sensing technologies, including aerial and satellite imaging, photogrammetry and lidar. This work includes preservation of 3-D likenesses of tornado-damaged structures to create highly detailed and permanent records of the damage. These records will help Womble and fellow researchers conduct detailed structural analyses which can help to better understand the wind speeds in tornadoes and the forces that they exert on structures.

An additional goal of the project is the detection of tornado tracks using aerial and satellite images in remote and sparsely populated forested areas, such as those found in Ontario, where tornado touchdowns may otherwise go undetected. Detection of these so-called "missing" tornadoes enhances climatology studies and provides a basis for improving forecasts, warnings, and insurance risk models.

The overall project elevates the training of students through hands-on research experiences targeting technology-driven innovation, through exposure to the graduate culture at leading national and international institutions and through introduction to related career opportunities via an extensive speaker series which will bring professional colleagues to the WTAMU campus from prominent, influential and inspiring engineering and scientific organizations.

Womble has received prior RAPID Response grants from the National Science Foundation for the study of damage from the Pampa tornadoes of 2015 and from Hurricane Harvey along the Texas coast in 2017, as well as a Major Research Instrumentation Grant for acquisition of a laser scanner for collection of 3-D digital models of wind-damaged structures.

In the current annual funding cycle, the NSF considered more than 400 applications for the CAREER Award and made awards to approximately 15 percent of applicants.

 

—WTAMU—


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Bob DeOtte
on 4.2.2018

Congratulations on setting a milestone for WTAMU. I know this is a big deal and how much effort you put into it. Bob