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NOAA Scholars are a force for hurricane research

May 16, 2017

When Electrical Engineering major Katrina Rosemond was selected as an Educational Partnership Program (EPP) Undergraduate Scholar, she had never been on an airplane before. Her first flight was to San Francisco, California, to present her research on forecasting Arctic sea ice concentrations at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. Less than a year later, Katrina was going through the same rigorous training as G-IV and P-3 Hurricane Hunter pilots and crew during her summer internship at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, Florida.

EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholar Katrina Rosemond presents her research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting.

As an EPP Undergraduate Scholar, Katrina conducted an internship at MacDill Airforce Base during summer 2016. Katrina's project focused on conducting a software modification of aeronautical radio control boxes in the G-IV Hurricane Hunter planes. Aeronautical radio control boxes measure the position and rotation of an aircraft, which are required to determine the position of a unique type of radar on the tail of the plane. The Tail Doppler Radar measures the wind speed and direction inside of the hurricane, and knowing the position of that instrument allows scientists to paint a more complete picture of the storm’s intensity and provide a more accurate forecast.

In order to fly with the Hurricane Hunters, Katrina went through NOAA Aviation Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Physiological Training with fellow NOAA Education Scholars Milton Martinez-Torres and Lauren Cutler. The three NOAA Scholars passed classroom instruction, hypoxia training and learned water survival skills in the event of an emergency water landing at a local Coast Guard training pool.

The EPP Undergraduate Scholarship changed my life. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I used to be quiet and reserved, but now I am comfortable with presenting and talking about my research with experts in my field

Katrina woke up at 4 AM on several mornings to participate in fair weather instrumental testing flights for the G-IV Hurricane Hunter aircraft. The three NOAA Scholars also participated in fair weather test flights on the P-3 aircraft, in which they helped the crew conduct tests and deploy atmospheric profiling instruments over the Gulf of Mexico.

There are many electrical engineers on the Hurricane Hunter team, and Katrina remarks that the whole crew provided mentorship to the NOAA Scholars. The crew members gave her research and career advice, encouraging her to not set limits and to keep learning and applying her skills to new projects. In January, Katrina presented her research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholar Katrina Rosemond during a testing flight on a Hurricane Hunter plane.
EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholar Katrina Rosemond during a testing flight on a Hurricane Hunter plane. (Katrina Rosemond)

“The EPP Undergraduate Scholarship changed my life,” Katrina says, “It pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I used to be quiet and reserved, but now I am comfortable with presenting and talking about my research with experts in my field.”

This summer, Katrina will be doing research at her alma mater, North Carolina A&T University, on fault tolerance in aeronautical systems, which has implications for space exploration. Katrina will complete her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in applied mathematics in 2018 and plans to pursue her doctorate in computer science after graduating. With her engineering skills and aviation and aerospace research experience, the sky is not the limit for Katrina’s future career.

Each summer, a cadre of NOAA Undergraduate Scholars conduct research with the goal of improving our understanding and forecasting of hurricanes. To ensure you are prepared for a storm, The National Weather Service suggests determining your risk, developing an evacuation plan in the event of a storm, and assembling a disaster supply kit. For more tips on how to prepare, please visit the National Weather Service hurricane preparedness website. The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1st, and will continue until November 30th.