Hollings Scholar Summer Research- Max Ungar

Hollings Scholar Summer Research- Max Ungar

Students who receive the prestigious Hollings Scholar title are granted many opportunities over the course of their undergraduate careers. This year’s group of seniors has three Hollings Scholars and over the summer they all completed a research project with various weather research and forecasting entities around the country. Max Ungar completed his research opportunity in Illinois.

Ungar spent his summer at the National Weather Service in Romeoville/Chicago working on storm research.

“Gino Izzi (Lead Forecaster) and Eric Lenning (Science and Operations Officer) served as my mentors on this project. My research project was looking to create an environmental climatology for Quasi-Linear Convective System (QLCS) Mesovortices across Northern Illinois. QLCSs are lines of thunderstorms that are approximately sixty miles or greater in length. Mesovortices are small-scale vertical vortexes of air that can produce significant severe weather hazards, including tornadoes, and can exist along the leading edge of QLCSs. The goal of my project was to determine which thermodynamic and wind shear parameters can help forecasters at NWS Chicago distinguish between environments conducive for QLCS mesovortices versus those that are not,” he told us.

This opportunity allowed him to learn about his specific research topic as well as the collaborative nature of the professional world.

“From the results of my work, I found that vertical wind shear, or changes in wind magnitude with height, tend to be the best environmental parameter in distinguishing between QLCS mesovortex environments. Regarding the research process, something I learned, almost immediately, was to be open to changing project methods on the fly. There were points that limitations in time or data required me to change my research approach, and being flexible to change my methodology helped yield a successful outcome.

Something else I got to see first-hand in this experience was just how collaborative research often is. In addition to my mentors at NWS Chicago, I got additional help on this project from Dr. Walker Ashley and Dr. Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University and Dr. Alex Haberlie of Louisiana State University. Without the help from all involved, my research would not have been as successful,” said Ungar.

Ungar was really able to get hands-on experience

“I was very fortunate and thankful that the forecasters at NWS Chicago allowed me to assist with operational tasks outside of my project throughout my internship. This included making weather stories/graphical updates, taking and filing local storm reports, providing weather updates on social media, and facilitating tactical weather briefings to NWS partners during weekend events,” said Ungar.

With graduation coming up in the spring, Ungar used this past summer to solidify plans for the future.

“Working on research this summer has reaffirmed my plan to attend graduate school, where I will look to build on my experience this summer. While I may not work on this project specifically, I plan to pursue research regarding mesoscale/severe weather processes or in-situ observation techniques,” he told us.

Congratulations to Max, the School of Meteorology is looking forward to seeing what you accomplish next!