UM students awarded prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

UM News, 05-27-2020

Students awarded two of only four fellowships nationwide in Physical and Dynamical Meteorology
Quinton Lawton (left) and Jimmy Yun Ge have each been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.  


MIAMI – Two first year doctoral students at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Quinton Lawton and Jimmy Yun Ge, have each been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.  The Fellowship is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the country and is highly competitive.  Lawton and Ge received two of only four Fellowships awarded nationwide in Physical and Dynamical Meteorology. Both are pursuing a Ph.D. at UM Rosenstiel School’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. 

Quinton Lawton earned his B.S. in meteorology from Texas A&M prior to coming to the UM Rosenstiel School. He will apply his fellowship towards his primary research interest of hurricane genesis—how interaction between atmospheric waves can make hurricane formation more or less likely in the Atlantic Ocean.  His research has the potential to improve understanding of the predictability of hurricane formation and provide more lead time to communities to prepare when these systems threaten land.

“I’m elated to receive this fellowship which allows me to focus on a research area that is specifically tailored to my own passions and interests,” said Lawton. “The application process forced me to think deeply about a current research question I was interested in, synthesize what is currently known about it, and craft a research plan to investigate it over the course of my Ph.D. program, giving me ownership over my research in a way not otherwise possible.”

No stranger to hurricanes, Lawton recalls going through Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017, both impacting his home state of Texas.

“I still remember helplessly watching the aerial footage as flood waters swallowed up the familiar streets, businesses, and homes of my childhood,” said Lawton. “The distressing stories that came from this disaster galvanized a desire to use my career to research the science and predictability of hurricanes and help mitigate their impact on people. Even more, living in Miami – which is also no stranger to hurricanes – connects me to my research in a profound way.”  

As part of his NSF fellowship, Lawton plans to directly mentor undergraduates and high school students in research and open-up the scientific community to more students as he progresses as a graduate student.

Jimmy Yun Ge earned his B.S. in meteorology and applied mathematics from the UM Rosenstiel School. As an undergraduate student, he realized he wanted to pursue a degree in meteorology in his very first atmospheric science lecture. Now, he is focused on the problem of hurricane formation, his NSF fellowship allowing him more independence with the direction of his Ph.D. research.

“My research will investigate tropical cyclogenesis, the process in which a tropical disturbance, a disorganized cluster of thunderstorms over tropical waters, develops into a tropical storm or hurricane—in particular, the role of thunderstorms and turbulence in the evolution of a hurricane-scale vortex using weather models and aircraft and satellite observations,” said Ge. “Improving our understanding of these physical processes will lead to improved hurricane forecasts and earlier warnings for the public.”

He sees the fellowship as beneficial to facilitating greater collaboration between the UM Rosenstiel School and the NOAA Hurricane Research Division directly across the street. “I am drawn to NOAA specifically because of its mission to connect research and society,” said Ge. “Through past outreach, I have witnessed that scientific expertise and credibility are instrumental in increasing public awareness of hazards and recruiting students into the atmospheric sciences.” Ge also hopes to participate in several flights with NOAA into hurricanes as part of his research, making him one of the very few hurricane hunter graduate students in the world.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. It recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.