TSU graduate student Kyra Bryant wins thesis award

By K. Dawn Rutledge

The Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools has awarded the Graduate Student Master’s Thesis Award to Tennessee State University student, Kyra Bryant.

Bryant recently completed a Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Computer Information Systems Engineering at TSU.

Kyra Bryant presentation
TSU graduate student Kyra Bryant explains research at a recent Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools meeting. (submitted photo)

Among member institution graduate students from across the state of Tennessee, Bryant received the award on Feb. 8 for her research on hurricanes and storm surge search models with the purpose of making prediction more accurate. The title of her thesis was “The Rise and Fall of the Drag Coefficient in Wind Stress Calculations for Hurricane Wind Speeds with a Case Study.” It was published last fall (2016) in the Journal of Marine Science Engineering.

Dr. Muhammad K. Akbar, assistant professor in the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department, served as Bryant’s faculty advisor.

Akbar said that when a hurricane is brewing in the deep ocean, the tasks of emergency management become encumbered. They must forecast the hurricane’s wind track and strength for the entire duration through its landfall and beyond. They use the forecasted wind field to predict the incoming storm surge to coastal areas, and use it to set-up evacuation plans. Since the hurricane’s path and strength dynamically changes, the process must be modeled every few hours until the hurricane is two to three days away from landfall. One of the primary variables that influence storm surge simulation is the stress generated on the ocean by hurricane winds, which is approximated using air density, wind speed, and drag. The drag coefficient is typically calculated from an empirical correlation, which has been debated and researched by many scientists for more than half a century. Bryant’s thesis examined and summarized scientific research on the drag coefficient correlations.

“Ms. Bryant presented a case study using some of the commonly used drag coefficients, along with one of her own, to hind cast the Hurricane Rita (2005) storm surge and compare the results with observed data,” Akbar said, adding that she is performing more studies to develop drag coefficient correlations that can be used to predict hurricane storm surge accurately as part of her Ph.D. program.

“Receiving the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools (TCGS) Thesis Award is a great honor for Ms. Bryant, and all of us at Tennessee State University,” Akbar continued. “It is an encouragement and motivation for us to advance the research to the next level. The outcome of the research will serve a huge coastal population of the world threatened by tropical storms annually. Even a single life saved through this research outcome would give us a sense of accomplishment.”

The Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools is committed to excellence and recognizing the exceptional work of Tennessee graduate students. TCGS’s graduate student thesis award is presented annually to recognize scholarly achievement in graduate students at a member institution of the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools.

“We are extremely proud of Kyra, her faculty advisors, and the entire engineering faculty,” said Dr. Lucian Yates, III, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

“This award is a reflection of the expectations and demands of the curriculum in engineering and the dedication of our students,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are proud of her recognition for this award, and strongly support her continuing study in the graduate program in engineering.”

This is not the first time Bryant has had the opportunity to share her research. Last year, she presented at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in Washington, D.C. where she interacted with other scholars from around the nation. She has also presented at TSU’s annual research symposium, receiving 3rd place for her work. Additionally, she has the 14th Estuarine Coastal Modeling Conference (ECM14) under her belt, a national conference attracting people from all over the world doing coastal modeling research.

Bryant said she chose TSU because it was the only institution engaged in such research.

“I don’t know of any other university in Tennessee doing hurricane research,” she said. “There are only one in eight professors in the U.S. teaching this program, and I’m very fortunate to be here.”

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.