Greater Pee Dee Business Journal November/December 2011 : Page 16

CCU Professor Awarded National Science Grant BY TERRY WARD PHOTOGRAPH BY FRED SALLEY aravut Limpasuvan, profes-sor of physics at Coastal Carolina University, fell in love with science in his teens. He has made the study of it his life. In September, Limpasuvan received a $254,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study climate dynamics. His research focuses on atmospheric wave disturbances and their roles in rapidly changing the wintertime polar circulation above the altitude of 30 km (approximately 18.5 miles.) His grant-funded study will investigate how evolving polar conditions can, potentially, impact near-surface climate and strato-spheric ozone distribution. “The recent grant award to Dr. Limpa-suvan reinforces the value placed on his activities by his peers. Furthermore, this recognition also emphasizes the impor-tance of the teacher-scholar model at Coastal Carolina University. Our students will gain in their educational experiences through their ability to interact with a scientist of the caliber of Dr. Limpasu-van,” says Dr. Michael Roberts, dean of CCU‘s College of Science. Mona Prufer, CCU’s media coordina-tor, says Limpasuvan’s prominent role in the study brings invaluable prestige to the university. As the lead principal investigator, Limpasuvan will collaborate with scientists at NASA’s Goddard facil-ity in Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Norwegian Institute of Air Research. He says the project was initiated by CCU students’ studies of regional atmospheric disturbances. V Limpasuvan spoke about his career and studies. Pee Dee Business Journal (PDBJ): At about what age did you become interested in science? Dr. Limpasuvan: I grew up in Thailand. There, the way science was taught in grade school was all about memoriza-tion, which I did not like. So, I was more interested in art at a very young age. I drew and constructed objects from scraps found around the house. This sounds weird but I loved drawing maps of various places around the world. My father had a lot to do with my early art interest. He was an architect and a civil engineer who dabbled in painting and sculpting. I would emulate his drawings and his work. My father was also a tinkerer, a “mad scientist” who could not leave well enough alone. Our house, which he designed, was always being renovated and experimented on. Needless to say, it looked very different from our neigh-bors’ homes. Our family car was always being altered to improve efficiency and eliminate waste. While his mannerisms and activities drove my mother crazy, I was thoroughly entertained and was always there to help him in his projects. My initial interest came from my father. My father also tinkered with our family in deciding to uproot all of us to Los Angeles. I was around 12-years-old at that time. I did not know any English, so in school I was naturally drawn to math. In high school, around 15-years-old, was when I really got interested in science. Particularly, it was my Biology teacher (Mr. Furukawa) who encouraged creativ-ity in experimental design that got me hooked on science. He would let me do side projects for his teaching lab. PDBJ: How did you get involved in research on atmospheric wave disturbance and climate dynamics? Dr. Limpasuvan: As an undergradu-ate at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) I fell in love with fluid mechanics, the study of motion of liquid and gas. I was given a chance to enroll in a graduate-level fluid mechanics lab with Prof. Fred Raichlen, who paired me with one of his graduate students. I got to work on small projects related to crashing waves along shorelines and on waves generated by collapsing dams. I thought that those projects were the coolest things ever. While we did lots of measurements and solved lots of equa-tions, I was really struck by the beauty of fluid movement and rippling waves and, at the same time, marveled by their destructiveness. It was a combination of art and science. Based on that experience, I accepted an NSF summer research fellowship at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett Bay. There, I developed a crude way to gauge the Gulf Stream’s stored energy. While this experience was very rewarding, it was really the pass-ing of Hurricane Bob that summer of 1992, ripping through Rhode Island that convinced me to study the atmosphere. I vividly recall evacuating to the main URI campus, in Kingston, with hundreds of people, as the thunderous wind passed 16 | GREATERPEEDEEBUSINESSJOURNAL.COM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

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