Apr 142010
 
Authors: Matt Miller

For the last 25 years, CSU professor V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar has been working to more effectively map one of humanity’s greatest foes: weather. Last week he was named Finland Distinguished Professor for his revolutionary research in weather radar.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” Chandrasekar said of the distinction, which comes with an award of $1.5 million. “I had never won an award this big.”

The award comes from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Helsinki, a consortium of Finnish industries and the Finnish Agency for Technology and Innovation. He will visit the university in early May to receive his award and set up a plan to continue his research with them.

Chandrasekar is known for his work with a new form of radar that not just predicts when rain will fall but how much. When installed on satellites, this radar is able to map global precipitation.

He has been a key player in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, CASA, which is developing a network of radar systems nationwide.

His work with CASA has produced the CASA IP-1 radars, which have been tested in Oklahoma’s “tornado valley,” which sees an average of 22 tornadoes each year. No casualties resulted from those tornadoes forecasted by the new radar, which was able to warn of the storms minutes in advance.

“It’s a very fulfilling proposition, to invent things that are put into practice quickly and touch people’s lives,” Chandrasekar said.  “It directly helps people.”
Over the next few years, the money he has received will help further his research and facilitate collaboration with researchers from Finland. This collaboration includes visiting Finland, bringing researchers to CSU and teaching advanced courses here and in Finland.

“This center is one of the most prestigious research programs in the country,” Chandrasekar said. “We have been able to take on a large scale problem.”
Though proud, Chandrasekar shared credit where he felt it was due.

“Even though it’s been given in my name, it is recognition of the whole research facility and the college,” he said. “It means a lot not just for me but for my program and my students. My students are really the workhorse.”

Chandrasekar’s colleagues commended the researcher, saying the award has helped to put CSU on the map for its research.

“The prestige and visibility highlights that research at CSU is world class,” said Anthony Maciejewski, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department head. “It’s pretty amazing when a country only gives an award to one person in the entire world.”

“It will bring more visibility and awareness to the things we’re doing and hopefully propel what we’re doing forward,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering research associate Francisco Junyent Lopez.

At the time of his nomination for the honor, Chandrasekar was the deputy director for CASA, co-principal investigator for the CSUCHILL National Radar facility and a member of remote a NASA sensing research team.

“He is on the cutting edge,” Junyent said. “He is doing things that were not so long ago thought of as impossible and is getting noticed around the world.”

Chandrasekar received his Ph.D. at CSU and has been working at the university for nearly 25 years. He started out working as an electrical engineer and then with radar after seeing what it could be used for.

“He is the vision,” Junyent said. “He is the person who has the insight to give the guidance to the entire radar group.”

Staff writer Matt Miller can be reached at news@collegian.com.

About the award

What: V. Chandrasekar named Finland Distinguished Professor
Amount won: $1.5 million
About his work: Revolutionary research in weather rader, able to map global precipitation if mounted to satellites, predict how much rain will fall

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