Patrick Chi was in physics class when the news came by text: He had been
named one of only 300 Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists in the country
for his research on categorizing tropical cyclones.
The Intel contest is the most prestigious pre-college science competitions in the country. Students submit individual work to judged by PhDs in the research area.
"That was a pretty exciting moment," Chi said about finding out about the Intel award in January. "That was a nice addition to my day."
His research was entitled, "Using Power Dissipation as a Novel Approach to Rank and Categorize Tropical Cyclones." In it, he essentially advances the case that if meteorology categorized tropical cyclones both by wind speed and storm radius, it would be possible to better predict - and warn the public about - the potential danger posted by storms and the amount of damage they would do. Currently tropical cyclones are categorized solely by wind speed, according to Chi.
"It's a superior way to calculate a tropical cyclone's strength compared to the current method," Chi said. "It's a better representation of a storm's strength."
The work involved analyzing thousands of data points for tropical cyclones that are available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He looked at data for storms going back to 2004 in six hour intervals. Chi developed a model that allowed him to compare storm conditions with the damage done upon landfall and the cost of the cleanup.
Chi initiated the project as part of Stony Brook University's Simons Summer Research Program. He credits his mentor there, Dr. Brian College, for guiding and supporting him. His work was based on a model created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Dr. Kerry Emanuel.
He finished the research paper for Intel after returning from Simons. According to Intel's website, the science talent search "recognizes the most promising young innovators in the United States who are creating the technologies and solutions that will positively impact people's lives."
Entries are reviewed by three or more PhD scientists, mathematicians, or engineers in the subject area of the entry. Judges are looking for students exhibiting exceptional research skills, a commitment to academics and to their communities, innovative thinking, and promise as a scientist.
Chi said that he plans to study applied mathematics in college. He noted that that researching and analyzing the weather data for his cyclone work was a form of applied mathematics. He is attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of the field and believes it will allow him to become involved with a wide variety of projects.
Chi has a strong interest in climate change, and he is not done with his tropical cyclone work yet.
"I've been working on it since summer and I'd like to have it published in some way," he said. "That's a good goal for me - to continue with the project and get it published."