Alumni Profile: Dr. Hong Sik (Peter) Park ’62 ’64

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Half a century’s worth of changes evaporated as Hong Sik (Peter) Park (BS ’62 dairy industry, MS ’64 dairy industry) climbed the stairs of Iowa State’s Food Science Building. Here was the place he had called home for five years, a familiar façade amidst a transformed campus.

Originally from South Korea, Park’s path to Iowa State and the dairy industry seemed like a long shot. He grew up poor, the eldest son of eight children in his family. Park was just 13 years old during the Korean War and spent three months under communist control in Seoul. “There was no food, no freedom,” Park said. “Men were hiding, literally hiding underground because they knew if found they would be sent to the front lines.”

When General Douglas MacArthur and the United States soldiers marched though and liberated the city, Park recalled people pouring into the streets, crying and thanking them. “That’s why I did everything in my life,” Park explained, “To give back, to pay back everything the United States did for Korea.”

By 1959, Park was well on his way to giving back. He had completed two years of study in agricultural chemistry at Seoul University as well as a year of military service and qualified to study in the United States.

A heartfelt discussion with one of his professors convinced Park that he needed to study dairy industry. Korea’s dairy industry at that time consisted of less than 1000 head of cattle in the entire country. Park recognized that boosting dairy production could help bolster the Korean economy while also providing better nutrition to the county’s citizens. Iowa State’s dairy industry major, which ranked as one of the top programs nationally, was where Park landed.

“When I came to the US I hardly had any money,” Park said. He spent his first quarter as a student at ISU living on eggs, peanut butter and bread that he kept in his room. Those who knew him insisted that he needed to eat at least one hot meal a day and becoming a bus boy in Friley Hall made that possible. Park recalls sitting down to his first hot breakfast in months and feeling overwhelmed by the kindness of others.

Over the next four years Park threw himself into his studies and activities. He worked hard to improve his English skills and vocabulary. He completed internships and learned more about the production of milk, cheese and ice cream. He created a program called Calves for Korea in hopes of raising enough money to purchase a dairy herd for his home country.

Park agreed to add one additional activity to his already full plate when in March of 1963 he became the instructor for Iowa State’s newly formed judo club. He assumed he would have one student and was shocked when more than 200 students turned up for the club’s first meeting. Rather than turning students away, Park led three classes each day Monday through Saturday to meet the demand.

In the years after he left Iowa State, Park pursued his career in the dairy industry, ultimately becoming the vice president of research and development and quality control at Marigold Foods, the largest dairy company in the Midwest. After retirement, Park served as a technical advisor to the Seoul Dairy Coop where he was able to advance Korea’s dairy industry as he had always hoped. “That success was from my education, industry-wide,” Park said. “I was very lucky, the Iowa State campus did that for me; the foundation was here.”

This summer, more than five decades later, Park revisited campus for the first time. As a student, Park lived for five years in the basement of the Dairy Industry Building (now known as the Food Science Building) free-of-charge while providing security for the space. As he explored the building today, much has changed beyond that familiar façade. The rooms are different, the building has expanded, but Park’s emotions remain steadfast. “My main memory is people’s kindness,” Park said. “I met so many nice people who helped me when I needed it. This place did that for me.”

— Coreen Robinson

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The cold truth

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Over the last century, nearly all of the earth’s glaciers have shrunk, some of them dramatically. All of the glaciers in Glacier National Park, Mont., are expected to disappear in the next 15 years. New studies show that the Greenland ice sheet has lost 10 billion tons of ice per year since 2003 – 10 billion tons per year.

One professor at Iowa State has studied glaciers for more than 30 years. Neal Iverson (’83 geology), professor of geological & atmospheric sciences, is currently studying drumlins (streamlined hills that form beneath glaciers) and glacial movement. His fieldwork has taken him to the Alps, the Canadian Rockies, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland.

Iverson spent the spring semester as a Fulbright scholar in Trondheim, Norway. VISIONS spoke with him via email; the following is an edited transcript of the discussion.

VISIONS: Tell us about your current research projects.
iverson1IVERSON: We are studying the sediments that make up drumlins that have formed beneath the glacier Múlajökull in central Iceland. These drumlins are unusual because they have been shaped by a modern glacier over the last century, rather than having formed during a past ice age. We study the magnetic properties of the sediment, which tell us about the patterns of sediment movement under the glacier, and the degree of sediment compaction, which tells us about the stress at the bottom of the glacier that affected the sediment’s mobility.

We also do experiments in the laboratory that simulate the physics of glacier sliding – the process whereby glaciers slip over their beds and achieve high speeds, as high as 150 feet per day in extreme cases. The goal is to develop relationships that can be used in numerical models aimed at predicting increasing speeds of glaciers that terminate in the ocean – those rates of flow are a major factor affecting sea level rise.

What do you hope this research will tell us?
The fieldwork in Iceland is aimed at understanding how drumlins form. The work has been made possible by climate warming, which has caused the glacier to shrink and expose the drumlins for study. Results of the laboratory experiments, through their inclusion in numerical models of ice sheets, could help shed light on the extent of future glacier accelerations due to climate warming.

Why is the study of drumlins important?
Drumlins are elongate hills orientated in the direction of glacier flow. They occur in groups of as many as 10,000 individuals, hidden from view under glaciers. No one yet knows how they form, despite 150 years of study and more than 1,000 publications. Drumlins are also of interest these days because, by sticking up into the base of modern ice sheets and affecting resistance to glacier slip, they could affect how quickly parts of ice sheets move and shed ice into the oceans.

Do you include students in your research?
Many of my students have worked on glacial sediments in the Midwest because that is their interest, having grown up in the Midwest. Others have in interest in modern glacial environments, often stimulated by their love of hiking, climbing, etc. These students have worked on a glacier in northern Sweden called Storglaciären, studying its flow behavior; in tunnels beneath the Svartisen Ice Cap in Norway, studying its sliding mechanics; and most recently in Iceland studying drumlins and other landforms at Múlajökull. Students participate in all aspects of the research.

How long have you been studying glaciers?
Thirty-two years. In the spring of 1983 I graduated from Iowa State and joined a University of Minnesota field project for the summer – 80 days of camping in front of a glacier in northern Sweden, where we studied its mass balance (gain or loss of ice) and speed. I ended up doing my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and have been studying glaciers continuously since then.

How cold does it get where you’re working?
We work in August in Iceland, so it is not that cold. Temperatures have ranged in August from about freezing to 55 degrees F. The bigger problems are high winds (sometimes sustained winds of 60 mph) and rain, both of which are common and make working hard or sometimes impossible.

Describe your working conditions.
We camp in front of the glacier and have a cook tent that makes cooking and eating a lot easier than if we had only sleeping tents. Working consists of walking several miles each day to a particular drumlin, digging to expose fresh sediments not disturbed by slope processes, and then spending the day working in the resultant pit carefully collecting sediment samples. It is dirty work that is hard on aging knees and backs but quite enjoyable when the weather is good.

What do you wear for protection from the cold?
Most of us wear synthetic inner layers that retain most of their warmth when wet and an outer  shell that breaks the wind and is waterproof. On our feet we wear boots that are rigid to allow walking on loose stones and sufficiently waterproof to allow the many streams in the area to be crossed.

You got a B.S. at Iowa State – were you an Iowa kid? If so, how did you get interested in glaciers of all things?
I grew up in Ames until I was eight and thereafter in Sioux City, where my father worked for ISU Extension. My parents took us each year camping in the Rockies. It was seeing glaciers – and the spectacular Alpine landscapes they produce – on some of those trips, that got me interested in glaciers. Also, glaciology is rooted in basic physics (mechanics and thermodynamics), subjects that I really enjoyed as an undergraduate at ISU.

Gathering Storm

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Partha Sarkar advocates that homes and buildings in tornado alley be designed to withstand EF3 tornadoes
By Mike Krapfl

The Iowa State University Tornado Simulator kicked up a thick and slowly spinning funnel cloud over a model of a small town, overwhelming the miniature streets, buildings, and homes.

Partha Sarkar turned from the laboratory vortex and explained, “That’s an EF3.”

Most tornadoes (about 90 percent of them) are EF3 or less in intensity. And so Sarkar advocates that homes and buildings within tornado alley across the middle of the U.S. be designed to withstand EF3 tornadoes and their top wind speeds of 165 mph.

Sarkar, an Iowa State professor of aerospace engineering, knows something about the biggest tornadoes. He walked the debris fields of Parkersburg in 2008 and Joplin, Mo., in 2010, and has seen what the 200-plus mph winds of EF5 storms can do to cities, buildings, and people.

To study the interaction of tornadoes with man-made structures, he designed and built a tornado simulator that can create and move a tornado-like vortex back and forth over a test bed. He, his coworkers, and Iowa State students have worked with the simulator for a decade, studying the loads and pressures caused by laboratory storms passing over models of homes and buildings.

But, Sarkar said, there’s still a lot engineers don’t understand about tornado winds: How, for example, do nearby structures and terrain affect those winds? How do building codes, building ages, structure shapes, roof types, and even construction quality influence tornado damage? How do internal pressures inside buildings influence tornado damage? And, how are the wind loads distributed and shared by a building’s components, such as roof sheathing, roof trusses, walls, studs, and nails?

To find these answers, the National Science Foundation has awarded a pair of three-year, $250,000 collaborative research grants to Sarkar and to Texas Tech University researchers Daan Liang, an associate professor of construction engineering and engineering technology, and Xinzhong Chen, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

As part of this new project, “We will try to quantify the uncertainties in estimating tornado winds and the corresponding structural damage,” Sarkar said.

To do that, Sarkar said his research group will use the latest advances in tornado simulation, data acquisition, and computer modeling to answer engineering questions about tornado winds and their effects on buildings.

One result of this research could be refinements to the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale that considers storm damage to measure the strength of tornadoes. Another result could be new provisions in building codes and construction practices for tornado-resistant buildings.

“The overarching goal of this research is to enhance society’s resiliency to tornadoes through innovative design and construction of building components and systems in tornado-prone regions,” the Iowa State and Texas Tech researchers wrote in a project summary.

At Iowa State, Sarkar said the grant will support experiments and data collection with the tornado simulator. One experiment, for example, will study actual buildings damaged in tornadoes by creating computer and physical models of the buildings and their structural failures. The computer models will be refined and verified by running lab tornadoes over the physical models. The computational models – called finite element models – will help researchers understand and predict the damage caused by tornado winds.

Data from the experiments and models will also be shared with the Texas Tech construction engineers who will study building performance in tornado winds.

“In the long run,” the researchers wrote in their summary, “the research is expected to contribute to methods and strategies that can be implemented for preventing tornado hazards from becoming disasters.”

Career Corner: Don’t Forget the Questions

By Katie Lickteig, Assistant Director of Outreach & Events

Recently, I’ve been sitting in on some interviews for an open position we have in the office, and it’s reminded me about an aspect of interviewing that sometimes gets overlooked: asking questions! No, not from the interviewer’s side of the table, but from the interviewee.

It’s usually common for an interviewee to ask about the office culture or what the organization is looking for in a candidate (although I’m sometimes surprised at how many candidates don’t ask any questions). And that’s all great information to gather. What impresses me more and what makes candidates more memorable to me is when they ask questions that show they’ve done some research and have already pictured working with the staff and what would that be like and what challenges would that present. Whether it’s accurate or not, candidates who ask several specific questions related to the job seem like they want the job more than candidates who don’t ask any.