Univ Relations

Space Weather in the Green Mountains - UVisit Stories

March 2014 | Mausumi Dikpati, a solar physicist at NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory (HAO), visited the Atmospheric Sciences Department of Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vermont, for two weeks in the fall of 2013. She taught a ten-lecture, full-credit course in space weather and climate, with 14 upper-level undergraduates in attendance (eight enrolled for credit). Mausumi also introduced other Lyndon State students to the subject, delivering one lecture each to freshman and sophomores.

Mausumi Dikpati, NCAR scientist

Several members of the Lyndon State faculty attended Mausumi’s lectures, which will help prepare them to teach subsequent classes on the topic in spring 2014 and beyond. They’ll be able to draw on extensive web-based materials prepared by Mausumi specifically for the course.

With Mausumi being the first space-weather expert to spend time at Lyndon State, interest in her visit extended beyond the student body. Some 80 attendees were on hand for a public lecture on space weather and climate.

“I found that both students and faculty were eager to learn this new subject,” says Mausumi. “The class interactions were numerous and lively.” She was struck by the parallel worlds of space weather specialists, who focus on impacts to Earth’s upper atmosphere, and meteorologists, whose attention is mainly on Earth’s lowermost “weather layer,” the troposphere. “Teaching these classes and interacting with the students and faculty gave me the opportunity to learn more about lower levels of the atmosphere, which will help me in expanding my collaboration with colleagues at NCAR,” she says.

"I greatly appreciate Lyndon State giving me this opportunity. It was such a friendly environment."

NCAR scientist Mausumi Dikpati helps a student with a class assignment
By spreading her hands out from an initially-folded position, Mausumi Dikpati explains the concept of angular momentum conservation. (Photos by Keith Chamberlin, Lyndon State College.)

Even a two-week UVISIT experience can have a lasting impact. After Mausumi’s visit, one of her students expressed strong interest in pursuing research on the topic of space weather and climate. This summer, William Wilson will be in Boulder, working with Mausumi and HAO colleague Scott McIntosh through the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in solar and space physics. Their project will evaluate north-south asymmetry as it evolves in the solar interior during the 11-year solar cycle.

Mausumi’s visit was “a delight to both students and faculty,” says department chair Bruce Berryman. “Students came away enthusiastic about space weather after listening to her energetic and animated lectures and watching her captivating videos of coronal mass ejections. Our atmospheric science faculty appreciated Mausumi’s friendliness and willingness to share information and materials with us, as we were preparing for teaching our first space weather course this semester.”

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In addition, says Bruce, “The newspaper announcement of her visit caught the attention of the director of the Northeast Kingdom Astronomy Foundation, Damon Cawley, who attended her public lecture. Damon is now sitting in on our space weather course and discussing possible future joint endeavors with us. UVISIT is a wonderful program!”

Mausumi’s UVISIT stint at Lyndon State was supported by NCAR and by meteorology alumnus Ralph Vasami, the CEO of Universal Weather & Aviation.