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Conference In Croatia Has Strong New Mexico Tech Ties

SOCORRO, N.M. June 8, 2009 – The week of May 25 to 29 marked the culmination of a year’s worth of planning by Tech physics graduate Dr. Zeljka Fuchs, Dr. Branko Grisogono from the University of Zagreb, and Tech physics professor Dr. David Raymond.

The trio hosted a workshop for east European graduate students in atmospheric and oceanic physics in the historic Croatian city of Split on the Adriatic coast.

Dr. Fuchs is a 2006 graduate of the New Mexico Tech atmospheric physics program and is now an assistant professor of physics at the University of Split. Fuchs will be visiting Tech during July to maintain her scientific collaboration with Raymond. Zeljka Fuchs picture

Dr. Zeljka Fuchs, New Mexico Tech physics graduate, at the recent conference in Split, Croatia, that she and her advisor, Dr. Dave Raymond, organized.

The workshop brought in a distinguished international panel of lecturers from Germany, Mexico, United States, Australia and Croatia.
In addition to the host country, the workshop attracted graduate students from Italy, Austria, the Ukraine and New Mexico Tech doctoral student Saska Gjorgjievska, a native of Macedonia.

“We hope this is the first of an annual series of workshops designed to promote connections between east European students in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences and institutions world-wide, including New Mexico Tech,” Raymond said. “I certainly do see this conference strengthening ties between Eeastern Europe and the United States. Hopefully, we can get more graduate students coming to New Mexico Tech.

Raymond said the workshop had two uncommon features. First, speakers were not given pre-assigned topics, but were encouraged to discuss the area of their research they consider to be most important.

Second, the conference had a strong pedagogical focus. They keynote speakers assigned pre-conference work to graduate students from universities in eastern Europe. The students reviewed and reported on pre-assigned topics.

Saska Gjorgjievska, a doctoral student in physics, gives a presentation at the conference in Croatia.

“A lot of the student reports filled in finer details that the presenters spoke about in broad terms,” Raymond said. “These students had to work to understand beforehand what these researchers are doing.”

Gjorgjievska, who is studying atmospheric convection, said she found the conference very informative and engaging. She also appreciated meeting some of the top researchers in her field and getting acquainted with people of similar interests.

“I enjoyed hearing the lecturers from around the world,” she said. “And the open discussions where we could ask whatever we wanted to know. I think I learned a lot.”

One of the major themes of the conference was the discussion and theories about the maximum possible strength of tropical storms.

“A well-known theoretical model by MIT professor Kerry Emanuel predicts the maximum strength OF a hurricane or typhoon, given certain conditions like sea temperature,” Raymond said. “Recent work has shown that this result is only an approximation that may or may not be a good model. So the debate goes on.”

Atmospheric physicists and graduate students enjoy a relaxing, informal discussion in scenic Split, Croatia.

Raymond’s assignment to the graduate students was his seminal paper, “Thermodynamic Control of Tropical Rainfall,” published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in 2001.

Raymond spoke about his research into tropical precipitation. For nearly 20 years, he has been studying the conditions that might predict precipitation in the tropics including those in tropical storms. Using airplane-based data gathering and instruments dropped from planes, Raymond has developed a model explaining what conditions lead to rainfall.

Thanks to Dr. Fuchs, the conference enjoyed strong financial support from the Croatian government. Somewhat isolated from the larger academic centers in Europe, the conference was a welcome event to bring scholars to the coastal country, Raymond said.

– NMT –