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DAES Students Climb High in National Research and Forecasting Competitions

Theodore Letcher explains his research on atmospheric warming's effects on snow cover and water resources in the Rocky Mountains in his award-winning video.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 20, 2016) — National honors continue to roll in like a weather front for students and faculty in UAlbany’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (DAES).

Ph.D. candidate Theodore Letcher was named one of two winners in the nationwide Early Career Researcher Video Competition and graduate student and research project assistant Philippe Papin, M.S. ’14, won the North American collegiate weather forecasting competition, the WxChallenge tournament.

The Early Career Researcher Video Competition is hosted by the World Climate Research Programme and the Global Energy and Water Cycle Exchanges. It is associated with an important national effort to develop a large-scale regional hydroclimate project to better understand water, weather, and climate in the western U.S. Letcher took top honors for his video addressing water challenges facing Western North America.

“The video contest offers early career scientists an opportunity to provide their insights into key research problems that should be addressed through this larger project,” said Justin Minder, DAES assistant professor and Letcher's advisor on the project. “The entries were judged by some of the leading researchers in our field. Ted's win reflects the high quality of his research, scientific vision, and communication skills.”

The honor also represents a tremendous professional development opportunity, since, as a result of winning the competition, Letcher will receive $500 and serve as a member of the Early Career Scientist advisory panel for the new North American Regional Hydroclimate Project.

The WxChallenge tournament, run by the University of Oklahoma, is a long-standing winning tradition for DAES. With Papin’s win, the department maintained the solid reputation it has established since the competition began in 2006. Papin won the tournament after finishing third for the 20-week regular season title among more than 1,800 students from 70 colleges and universities. The top 64 were seeded in the tournament, where they went head-to-head forecasting for individual U.S. cities.

“The combination of Philippe’s finishes is remarkable and speaks to his talent as a forecaster,” said assistant professor Brian Tang, DAES. In addition to Papin, Ernesto Findlay, B.S. ’14, was the best forecaster overall in the graduate student division and Ross Lazear, a DAES instructional support specialist, finished second in the faculty/staff division. “I would say this past season was our most successful yet,” said Tang.

This is saying a lot. Over the past five years, DAES representatives have won 31 WxChallenge trophies, which go only to first and second place finishers, in the freshman/sophomore, junior/senior, graduate student, and faculty/staff categories.

“Our success speaks to the dedication and skill of our students, especially without collaboration with their peers or faculty,” said Tang. “We have some of the best individual weather forecasters in the entire country here at UAlbany.”

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