Monthly Archives: June 2017

IAAP Scholarship Award

Dear Mr. Farshid Farhat,

On behalf of Dr. Manouchehr Farkhondeh, President of the Iranian American Academics and Professionals (IAAP) and the entire organization, I would like to congratulate you on your outstanding academic success as well as the invaluable service to the Iranian-American community. We are also delighted to inform you that you have been selected as one of the recipients of IAAP’s Scholarship Awards for 2017.

We look forward to the opportunity to congratulate you in person and present you the Award Certificate and the accompanying check at our special gathering on June 24, 2017 (Information of the ceremony is posted at

We ask that you kindly acknowledge receipt of this email at your earliest convenience and be prepared to introduce yourself and provide a short background on the program you are in and any studies or project(s) you might be working on for a total of 3 to 4 minutes.

You will be among our honored guests, and as such exempt from making the customary fee, but to order enough food for everyone, we request that you register for the event at your earliest convenience, if not done so already. Your guests, if any, are also welcomed and expected to RSVP early but are required to pay the nominal dinner fees.

In case you are truly unable to participate in the ceremony, your certificate and the check can be given to a designated person provided the receipt of your notification by Tuesday, June 20th at the latest, or they can be mailed to you at a specified address. Also, in case you are unable to be with us in person, please make sure to send us a short video on the information we requested on the third paragraph with the notification by Sunday June 18th as well.

Yasaman Ardeshirpour, PhD
Scholarship Committee Chair

frash 🙂

Leveraging big visual data to predict severe weather


Every year, severe weather endangers millions of people and causes billions of dollars in damage worldwide. But new research from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and AccuWeather has found a way to better predict some of these threats by harnessing the power of big data.

The research team, led by doctoral student Mohammad Mahdi Kamani and including IST professor James Wang, computer science doctoral student Farshid Farhat, and AccuWeather forensic meteorologist Stephen Wistar, has developed a new approach for identifying bow echoes in radar images, a phenomenon associated with fierce and violent winds.

“It was inevitable for meteorology to combine big data, computer vision, and data mining algorithms to seek faster, more robust and accurate results,” Kamani said. Their research paper, “Skeleton Matching with Applications in Severe Weather Detection,” was published in the journal of Applied Soft Computing and was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“I think computer-based methods can provide a third eye to the meteorologists, helping them look at things they don’t have the time or energy for,” Wang said. In the case of bow echoes, this automatic detection would be vital to earlier recognition of severe weather, saving lives and resources.

Wistar, the meteorological authority on the project, explained, “In a line of thunderstorms, a bow echo is one part that moves faster than the other.” As the name suggests, once the weather conditions have fully formed, it resembles the shape of a bow. “It can get really exaggerated,” he said. “It’s important because that’s where you are likely to get serious damage, where trees will come down and roofs get blown off.”

But currently, when the conditions are just beginning to form, it can be easy for forecasters to overlook. “Once it gets to the blatantly obvious point, (a bow echo) jumps out to a meteorologist,” he said. “But on an active weather day? They may not notice it’s just starting to bow.”

To combat this, the research focused on automating the detection of bow echoes. By drawing on the vast historical data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), bow echoes can be automatically identified the instant they begin to form. Wang said, “That’s our project’s fundamental goal—to provide assistance to the meteorologist so they can make decisions quicker and with better accuracy.”

By continually monitoring radar imagery from NOAA, the algorithm is able to scan the entire United States and provide alerts whenever and wherever a bow echo is beginning. During times of active severe weather, when resources are likely to be spread thin, it’s able to provide instant notifications of the development.

“But this is just the first step,” Kamani commented. With the detection algorithm in place, they hope to one day forecast bow echoes before they even form. “The end goal is to have more time to alert people to evacuate or be ready for the straight line winds.” With faster, more precise forecasts, the potential impacts can be significant.

“If you can get even a 10, 15 minute jump and get a warning out earlier pinned down to a certain location instead of entire counties, that’s a huge benefit,” Wistar said. “That could be a real jump for meteorologists if it’s possible. It’s really exciting to see this progress.”

Envisioning the future of meteorology, the researchers see endless potential for the application of big data. “There’s so much we can do,” Wang said. “If we can predict severe thunderstorms better, we can save lives every year.”