Rice University’s Adrienne Correa, assistant professor of biosciences, and Pedram Hassanzadeh, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, have received 2018 Early-Career Research Fellowships from the Gulf Research Program, part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The fellowships support emerging scientific leaders as they take risks on untested research ideas, pursue unique collaborations and build a network of colleagues who share their interest in improving not only offshore energy system safety, but also the well-being of coastal communities and ecosystems.
“Because the early years of a researcher’s career are a critical time, the relatively unrestricted funds and mentoring this fellowship provides help recipients navigate this period with independence, flexibility and a built-in support network,” according to the Gulf Research Program.
Correa, a marine biologist, studies how marine microbial communities influence the health and function of marine animals and ecosystems, particularly when human activities alter temperature, nutrient availability and other conditions in coastal environments.
For three years, Correa has helped advise management of coral reefs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico through her research seat on the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. She is currently leading a team of scientists tracking low-salinity water masses, associated microbial communities and measures of coral health in the Gulf of Mexico to develop a predictive framework for assessing whether particular storm events are likely to harm reefs.
Most recently, Correa discovered that depth makes a big difference in the biological erosion that can lead reefs to either grow or shrink. She and her team were able to quantify how barnacles infest stony coral in a variety of conditions and potentially reduce calcium carbonate on reefs.
Hassanzadeh, an expert in environmental fluid dynamics, is interested in large-scale turbulent flows, such as those in the atmosphere. He uses computational, mathematical and statistical modeling to study atmospheric flows related to a broad range of issues, from extreme weather events to wind energy.
His research group is examining why Hurricane Harvey moved so slowly and whether a large-scale weather pattern played a role. The group is also exploring ways to improve the accuracy of NASA’s weather forecast model, searching for a better understanding of atmospheric turbulence and studying data-driven modeling of environmental flows.
Hassanzadeh’s group is also using deep learning to identify and predict extreme weather events. Hassanzadeh will use the fellowship to advance work on determining if more Harvey-style hurricanes are likely in the Gulf region in the future.
The fellowships include a two-year grant of $76,000, which provides funding for research-related expenses such as equipment purchases, professional travel, development courses, trainee support and salary.
The Gulf Research Program is an independent, science-based program founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements with companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Its purpose is to enhance offshore energy system safety and protect human health and the environment. The program funds grants, fellowships and other activities.