Running Rings Around
When the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games open in August, Dr. Shu-Cherng Fang will have handed off his torch to Chinese organizers while Dr. Lian Xie will be moving to the starting line for his Olympic challenge. The two NC State professors have parlayed contacts and faculty appointments in China into research efforts and consulting roles in the country’s biggest international event in decades.
While most of the Olympic events will be clustered in and around Beijing, the sailing competition will take place in the Yellow Sea near the city of Qingdao. Xie, a professor of meteorology in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, is developing a model to predict wind speeds off the coast so officials know which days are best to set sail. Sustained winds of at least 7 miles per hour for at least two hours are needed for a sailing event, he says. Xie is working with Drs. Sujit Ghosh and Montserrat Fuentes of the Department of Statistics to refine a model created by Chinese forecasters in which the margin of error is considered too great to be trusted on days with light wind. “We don’t have time to create something entirely new,” he says. “But we’re trying to produce something better than what they have.”
The project is Xie’s second with the Beijing Games. While the Chinese were putting their bid together to host the Olympics several years ago, he was asked to serve as scientific adviser to the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, which was developing a model to forecast Beijing’s air quality. After monitoring pollution levels across the region for several months and analyzing meteorological and pollutant emission factors, the panel recommended abandoning the municipal approach to pollution abatement previously used to address the problem and adopting a regional tack. “Compared with cities like Raleigh, the air quality was pretty bad,” he says, “but it’s improving rapidly.”
“This is a very special event for China. We will enhance NC State’s research relationship with China by helping ensure they have a successful Olympics.”
In a separate project, the logistical challenge of hosting thousands of international athletes and millions of spectators over two weeks took Fang to China. The Walter Clark Chair and Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor in the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) at NC State, Fang helped coordinate two symposia for Beijing organizers to help them get a better handle on issues ranging from transportation to trash recycling to terrorism. ISE professors Salah Elmaghraby and Xiuli Chao also took part in the events, which were hosted by NC State partner Tsinghua University. “This is a very special event for China,” Fang says. “We will enhance NC State’s research relationship with China by helping ensure they have a successful Olympics.”