Undergraduate Summer Research: Coastal Environmental Science Student Jonathan Russell
September 20, 2023
Conducting research over the summer through LSU Discover, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) or other means is a great way to get course credit toward your major and professional experience for your resume. Learn more about LSU student Johnathan Russell's summer research project.
My Summer Developing Hurricane Forecast Models
Name: Jonathan Russell
Hometown: Waxhaw, North Carolina
Major: Coastal Environmental Science - Coastal Meteorology
What type of research did you conduct over the summer?
I participated in a summer internship working alongside Velocity Risk and LSU in developing one of the first Gulf of Mexico hurricane forecast models.
Velocity Risk is a catastrophe risk insurance underwriting company based out of Nashville, TN which seeks to develop innovative, technological solutions towards risk analysis in the Gulf of Mexico region. As a part of their mission to continue to develop more innovative methods towards understanding Hurricane and Tropical Storm risk, they reached out to Dr. Paul Miller and LSU to work to develop a Gulf of Mexico centric hurricane forecast model. This forecast model outlines the name of storm days, number of storms, and overall activity specific to the Gulf of Mexico - notably different than current models which forecast simply the entire Northern Atlantic.
Where did you do your research internship?
I completed my research alongside Dr. Paul Miller in the College of the Coast and Environment with Henry Lipscomb and Sam Ye of Velocity Risk with this partnership between Velocity Risk and LSU. Most of the research was remote besides traveling to Nashville, TN to present the final model to the company.
What responsibilities did you have in your summer research work?
Over the summer we worked to develop a hurricane forecast model specific to the Gulf of Mexico. From obtaining data, writing python scripts, to testing machine learning models, we as a team were able to develop one of the first Gulf of Mexico specific hurricane forecasts.
What did you most enjoy about your project?
Even though we ran into many issues throughout the development of this forecast, the thrill of overcoming the problems we ran into and seeing the successful product developed in the end is something which will continue to inspire me.
What is the biggest lesson you learned?
Even though I was given immense support in trust from both Dr. Miller and Velocity Risk from the start of the project, I doubted my qualifications and ability to accomplish what was once a daunting task in developing a first of its kind forecast. However, throughout the summer, this experience taught me to believe in myself.
How did this experience impact your education or goals?
This experience has not only been influential in allowing me to understand what route of meteorology I want to pursue after undergrad, but has provided me with immense knowledge which I can implement towards future projects or problems. It has enabled me to continue understanding the way the atmosphere behaves, especially the Gulf of Mexico, as well as refine forecast of future hurricane seasons.
Do you have any tips or advice for other LSU students seeking to do summer research?
Simply put yourself out there. I took Dr. Miller’s class the fall semester of my freshman year, but I continued to stay in touch with him, so once this opportunity came about, he advocated for my selection on the project - ultimately providing me with the support and trust needed to produce the end result.
“ This experience has not only been influential in allowing me to understand what route of meteorology I want to pursue after undergrad, but has provided me with immense knowledge which I can implement towards future projects or problems. It has enabled me to continue understanding the way the atmosphere behaves, especially the Gulf of Mexico, as well as refine forecast of future Hurricane seasons. ”
Is there anyone you’d like to thank at LSU for helping to get this summer research
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Henry and Sam at Velocity Risk for all of the help, support, advice, and effort they gave to the project. I would like to thank Dr. Paul Miller, for not only directing me towards this opportunity, but allowing me to truly begin my career in meteorology - in addition to the countless hours of mentorship, work, and support he gave to the project itself. Also I would like to thank Dr. Robert Rohli, for kick starting this journey in other projects I have worked on with him. His countless support allowed me to continue towards the finished forecast model today.
What is next for you?
In the short term, I am currently working on a separate project with Dr. Rohli, funded by LSU Discover, looking into shifting tornadogenesis of landfalling tropical systems. My hope is, along with the model this summer, both research projects will be published by the end of the year. As far as the long term, I look forward to pushing towards more discomfort in various other realms of meteorology to work on something even more groundbreaking. From fellowships, various projects across the country, to even as far out as grad school, I look forward to participating in research which will use my understanding of meteorology to have a substantial societal impact into the future!