Matt Flournoy and Josh Gebauer recognized by NSF

Another cause for celebration! Matt Flournoy and Josh Gebauer were both honored recently by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Gebauer received an honorable mention, and Flournoy received a fellowship offer.

While both students are currently doing graduate work at OU, they first received their Bachelor’s degrees in Pennsylvania, with Matt attending Penn State University and Josh attending California University of Pennsylvania. Both students feel like their undergraduate and graduate programs have set them up for success in different ways. Flournoy felt that PSU helped by “offering a breadth of coursework that broadened [his] interests in meteorology.” He was able to do an extra programming project through the honors program that snowballed into research work and publication. His work starting and leading in student organizations allowed him to develop leadership skills and drive. At OU, he feels that faculty support to graduate students has been a huge factor in his success, alongside research and field work opportunities with NSSL. Gebauer felt that CalU’s smaller undergraduate program was ideal for him – it allowed for a lot of faculty interaction and helped lay a foundation for the breadth of research available at OU and through the National Weather Center.

Flournoy’s proposal was centered around his current MS work, which he described for us: “This involves studying simulations of a messy storm complex that occurred during the PECAN field campaign and produced a nocturnal EF-0 tornado. This tornado is one of the most heavily observed in history, and certainly the most observed nocturnal one. My advisor, Mike Coniglio, and I are using a blend of observations and simulations to examine processes leading up to the formation of intense low-level rotation in this storm. This will further the community’s understanding of mesovortex- and tornado-genesis, especially at night when these systems are inherently more dangerous to the public.” However, in his Ph.D. work (the work that will be funded by the fellowship) he’ll “be looking at observations of supercells taken during this spring’s RiVorS (Rivers of Vorticity in Supercells) field project.”  He’ll “use these observations and high-resolution simulations to locate low-level rivers of vorticity and, if they exist in real supercells, examine their influence on tornadoes and mesocyclones.”

Gebauer’s project “was focused on how low-level jets are affected by daytime convection. On days with severe weather, it is thought that tornado probabilities will increase in the late evening due to the increase in low-level shear associated with the development of the low-level jet. However, the development of the low-level jet depends on the daytime evolution of the boundary layer. Daytime thunderstorms could augment the evolution of the boundary layer and therefore, the low-level jet might not develop in the same way it would have if no storms were present. This can have important implications for tornado potential in the late evening. I wanted to use observations from the SGP ARM site and CLAMPS to evaluate LLJs in these convective environments to see if they are any different than those observed when there are no storms. I also want to see if there was a preferred type of low-level jet for increasing tornado probabilities. Ultimately, the goal of the project was to help remove some of the uncertainty in forecasting severe weather during evening transition.”


Josh’s long-term career goals are to finish his Ph.D. in Meteorology and to continue working in research either in academia or a laboratory-type setting. He encourages students interested in applying for fellowships to start thinking about their proposed projects early and to “pick a project that you are passionate about. It is much easier to write a good proposal when you thoroughly enjoy the topic.” Matt’s long-term goals include becoming a research professor at a university, and that passion showed when we asked him what advice he would give to students who hope to achieve something similar: “If you are an undergraduate or first-year grad student interested in receiving a graduate research fellowship, broaden your research ideas, expand your professional network, and don’t give up. Whenever you have a new research idea, write it down, and then talk to your advisor about it. You never know which idea will lead to the next big finding, and you never know who can help you get there. Build relationships with potential advisors and especially letter writers. Get to know them academically and personally so that they know who you are, what made you that way, and where you want to go. And lastly, never stop applying. It took me three tries to receive the NSF fellowship — I guess the third time is the charm. You won’t receive any awards that you don’t apply for.”

Congratulations to both Matt and Josh! Recognition from the National Science Foundation is a coveted honor, and we are so proud to have two of our own on that list!