Spring 2007 UMASS Amherst
Operations Research / Management Science Seminar Series

Date: Friday, April 27, 2007

Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Isenberg School of Management, Room 112

Speaker: Professor David McLaughlin

Director of NSF CASA Engineering Research Center
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
UMass Amherst

Biography: David J. McLaughlin is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts and director of the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). One of 22 current Engineering Research Centers created by the National Science Foundation (NSF), CASA teams undergraduate and graduate students, K-12 teachers, and academic, industrial, and government engineers and scientists from several disciplines in a grand quest to revolutionize our ability to detect, track, forecast, warn, and respond to hazardous weather events.  He received his BS and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1984 and 1989, respectively, and spent the period from 1989 through 1999 on the engineering faculty at Northeastern University. He has held research fellowships at the US Naval Research Laboratory and the USAF Rome Laboratory, and joined the UMass faculty in January of 2000. His research and teaching interests include radar design, systems engineering, and policy-mediated sensor networks.

TITLE: Chasing Interdisciplinarity while Chasing Tornadoes: an Overview of the CASA Engineering Research Center
Abstract: The scenario is this: A category four tornado suddenly touches down outside Norman, Oklahoma, in a region of the country known as Tornado Alley. Almost simultaneously, a close-knit array of tiny state-of-the-art radars zeroes in on the lethal twister. The radar beams precisely triangulate on the location of the vortex and chase it with pinpoint accuracy down Berry Street. Personnel at the National Weather Service in Norman use a specially-designed console to trace the exact route as the tornado rumbles down this major shopping thoroughfare, chewing up buildings and hurling vehicles out of its path. Armed with precise positioning, the Weather Service issues an emergency alert that saves lives and reroutes ground and air traffic away from the progress of the storm.
Meanwhile, another tornado touches down across town and appears to be heading for a hospital. Should the network continue tracking the first storm? Should it switch to pinpoint tracking of the second storm? Or should the system resources be configured for best effort tracking of both storms simultaneously? 

These questions reflect the mix of technology and policy challenges being undertaken within the NSF Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). The CASA team is creating the new technology of user-driven radar networks that are capable of comprehensively mapping regions of the atmosphere that are beyond the reach of today’s radars.  The driving vision of the center is that dramatic improvements in sensing, detecting, predicting, warning, and responding to hazardous weather events can be achieved by building a system that targeting its resources onto key regions where and when the end-user need is greatest.  Achieving this vision requires the sustained collaboration of engineers, decision scientists, computer scientists, meteorologists, and sociologists, working in conjunction with the ultimate end-users, to create a new approach to weather hazard response.

Part technical, part human interest, this talk addresses the challenges, the pleasures, and the opportunities inherent in a cross-disciplinary systems-level research environment that address an important national need and provides an exciting and fertile learning environment for tomorrow’s science and engineering students.
This series is organized by the UMASS Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Support for this series is provided by the Isenberg School of Management, the Department of Finance and Operations Management, INFORMS, and the John F. Smith Memorial Fund.

For questions, please contact the INFORMS Student Chapter Speaker Series Coordinator, Ms. Trisha Woolley, twoolley@som.umass.edu