Meet our newest Fall 2023 semester Atmospheric & Earth Science professors and lecturers.

Assistant Professor Xiaomin Chen

Xiaomin Chen

Xiaomin Chen

Assistant Professor Xiaomin Chen is excited to teach his first semester of courses within UAH’s Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science.

“I've been into severe weather since I was young. I even dreamt about tornadoes as a child,” notes Chen.

This fall, Chen will be teaching AES 441/541 - Thermodynamics and Cloud Physics. This course, geared to both undergraduate and graduate students, will cover cloud processes.

Chen says the course will cover everything from the three thermodynamic laws, to how clouds form, learning about the various types of clouds in our atmosphere, and how precipitation forms.

“The professors that taught me dynamics and thermodynamics during my college studies were wonderful and brought me into a new world unraveling the physical laws behind these amazing natural phenomena. My goal is to emulate the same passion and pass it on to the next generation of atmospheric science students here at UAH,” says Chen.

Professor Chen comes to UAH with an expertise in tropical cyclones. Prior to UAH, Chen worked at The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Research Division. He obtained his PhD in Meteorology from The School of Atmospheric Sciences at Nanjing University.

Chen’s research in tropical cyclones includes:
- Hurricane dynamics focusing on the intensity of structure changes
- Boundary layer transition and severe storm genesis during hurricane landfalls
- Model physics evaluation and development under high wind conditions
- Turbulent processes and thermal state in real hurricanes using aircraft and ground-based observations

In addition, Chen is looking forward to working with fellow colleague Dr. Kevin Knupp to deploy UAH’s Mobile Atmospheric Profiling Network fleet of research vehicles to study near-surface localized wind gusts of hurricanes anticipated to make landfall along the Gulf Coast during the 2023 hurricane season.

Fun Fact: Chen enjoys playing basketball. His favorite team is the Miami Heat!

Assistant Professor Sean Freeman

Sean Freeman<

Sean Freeman

Assistant Professor Sean Freeman is proud to be a faculty member of UAH’s Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science due to its long history of excellence in Atmospheric Science and strong partnerships with the National Weather Service of Huntsville and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

“I wanted to be a professor because I enjoy mentoring students and seeing them grow, not only as scientists and critical thinkers, but also as people during their college studies,” says Freeman.

This fall, Freeman will teach his first course for UAH, AES 351 - Dynamic Meteorology.

“Dynamic Meteorology is one of the first courses students take that connects what we know about the weather, from seeing and experiencing it, to the fundamental equations and properties that define our atmosphere,” Freeman states.

By the end of the semester, Freeman hopes his students will walk away with an understanding that math is just another language we use to describe what happens in the atmosphere.

Previously obtaining his PhD in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University, Freeman’s atmospheric science research focuses on studying convective clouds.

“My research encompasses everything from what goes into clouds, what happens inside of the clouds, and what is produced from the cloud such as precipitation and outflows,” Freeman notes.

Current research projects Freeman is involved in includes:
- Examining how small particles in the atmosphere (aerosol particles) impact clouds using models and the new observations at the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement facility in Northern Alabama
- Using cloud tracking to examine how the environment impacts clouds and their development as part of the Colorado State University and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory-led INvestigation of Convective UpdraftS (INCUS) mission.
- Developing new automated cloud tracking abilities, including developing the Tracking and object-based analysis of clouds (tobac) package
- Using small drones to measure the air that goes into and comes out of clouds

Fun Fact: Freeman has a black belt in Taekwondo!

Lecturer Lavanya Ashokkumar

Lavanya Ashokkumar

Lavanya Ashokkumar

Lecturer Lavanya Ashokkumar is proud to be a part of UAH’s Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science, offering top-notch undergraduate and graduate courses in Earth sciences, which incorporates cutting edge technologies.

“Being a leader in earth science requires not only to specialize in research, but also communicate the earth and environmental changes to the next generation. It is rewarding to see students develop passion for life-long learning and increased students’ interest,” says Ashokkumar.

Ashokkumar’s academic expertise lies in geospatial techniques, remote sensing, and global environmental change. She received her Ph.D. in Glaciology and Remote Sensing from Swansea University and continued her postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona before joining UAH in 2022.

Teaching three courses this fall, Ashokkumar says she’ll provide a fun, interactive way to learn about the environment and explore earth dynamic changes. Her classes include AES 103 – Environmental Earth Science, AES 313 – Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, AES 414/514 Applications in Geospatial Technologies, and AES 415/515 Advance Topics in Geographic Information Systems.

She also encourages students who have an interest in the environment, geographic information systems, and remote sensing to join the GIScience club she champions.

“Our club will include formal and informal events such as invited speakers from the Geographic Information System industry, navigating job interviews and hikes,” Ashokkumar notes.

Ashokkumar’s research focuses on glacier melt due to climate change. Currently, she’s developing a numerical prediction model that combines remote sensing observations with empirical computations to estimate global sea-level rates.

“The Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science offers amazing opportunities to advance my career as a teaching faculty and a researcher at the same time. I feel privileged to be a part of the vibrant community,” says Ashokkumar.

Fun Fact: Ashokkumar enjoys experimenting with baking and traveling!

Lecturer Vivian Brasfield

Vivian Brasfield

Vivian Brasfield

Receiving both her undergraduate and master’s degree through UAH’s Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science program, Lecturer Vivian Brasfield is thrilled to be teaching her second year for the department.

“I was a teaching assistant in grad school and really enjoyed being the go-to person for students. I enjoy seeing my lectures resonate with students, advising students, and watching students grow professionally during their undergraduate and graduate studies,” says Brasfield.

Brasfield will be teaching three courses this fall. The first, AES 104 - Weather and Climate Change, is an undergraduate introductory atmospheric science course that is open to all majors.

The second course, AES 209 - Data Analysis Tools, was designed by Brasfield to introduce students to all the software and data analysis techniques, such as radar, python, GR2Analyst, and Geographic Information Systems.

The third course, AES 410/510 - Operational Weather Forecasting, is both an undergraduate and graduate course co-taught with meteorologists from The National Weather Service of Huntsville. This course contains interactive exercises that will prepare students for real-world operational weather forecasting. At the end of each semester, instead of a final, students will participate in a 2-hour exercise providing real-time weather support that mirrors the job responsibilities within the National Weather Service.

“The final exercise includes both short-term and long-term forecasting, writing weather briefings, handling phone calls, and interacting with the media to provide weather alerts and updates. It’s a great way for students to get a taste of a possible career path in atmospheric science,” says Brasfield.

Brasfield currently serves as faculty advisor for multiple student organizations of UAH’s Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science. She currently serves as the faculty advisor for The American Meteorological Society/The National Weather Association chapters, providing professional development for students such as resume workshops and conference etiquette overviews. Brasfield also serves asthe faculty advisor for the department’s Ambassadors group. Students are chosen to represent the department by providing prospective student tours and working campus events that promote the department, such as Week of Welcome.

When she’s not teaching or advising, Brasfield conducts atmospheric science research which focuses on tropical meteorology and severe weather.

Fun Fact: In her free time, Brasfield enjoys taking advantage of all the hiking trails in North Alabama!