Alka Tiwari

Alka Tiwari Profile Picture
Home Department:
Civil Enginnering

Mentor / Lab:
Dr. Venkatesh Merwade

Specific Research Area / Project:
Improving post-hurricane flood modeling using Satellite Products

Lab / Personal work-related websites:

Research Profile:

My father introduced me to a book titled ‘ Autobiography of a Yogi’ that had a deep impact on my formative years. There is one particular sentence that I can quote: “The deeper the Self-realization of a man, the more he influences the whole universe by his subtle spiritual vibrations, and the less he himself is affected by the phenomenal flux.” This simple statement gives me confidence that whatever I do in my life, my Ph.D., or any work I undertake can potentially influence the world if not the whole universe! Indeed not just me – this is true for each of us! This driver that I can do something impactful has been the foundation of my research endeavor. While I have been awarded a NASA fellowship for my research proposal, the details keep evolving each day.

In a broad sense, I am focusing on improving the analysis of flooding, especially urban flooding, due to hurricanes using improved satellite products. The broader objective of my work is to help in building more resilient policies for the locations which get affected by the catastrophic tropical cyclones each year in the US. This has been a challenging topic as it requires getting to understand aspects beyond what I had formative education in on topics related to tropical meteorology, hurricanes, and urban food modeling- and the integration of information from different surface and satellite datasets, as well as numerical models.

Alka Tiwari Research Picture

About Me:

I have a curious mind and love to dig deep into any subject for my understanding. I was fond of Physics and Mathematics because of my father, who taught me not to solve the science problems with the use of physical equations but using imagination first. I was fortunate to do my masters from one of the premier research institutes in India, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, where I developed a model for river dynamics study. My mentor at IIT Kanpur was a Purdue graduate himself, and he inculcated the traits of perseverance, honesty and smart work under his guidance, and used to tell me in almost every meeting, “Whatever you pursue, wherever you go, give your best, go with your full heart”. While I was forming my research ideas, my love for the mighty Himalaya was growing, and I started visiting it frequently. I do not travel the touristy way; instead, I go as if I would live in those places. These journeys unraveled the hard life the locals were facing because of climate change, and other factors such as the shift in the crop growing season, urbanization, and heavy flooding became part of the new normal. I kept considering how I can help such communities and help preserve this serenity through my PhD. As they say, luck favors the driven, I got PhD offers from each the 4 reputed universities I had applied- and in fact Purdue was the last offer I got. I had worked at Purdue as a summer visitor (with Prof. Dev Niyogi) and got to know of the ESE IGP and really liked the research culture and environment here. So, I was elated to join Purdue University.

I have enjoyed the collaborative culture at Purdue University. From the very beginning, when I used to meet my fellow classmates for the ESE symposium, they all belong to diverse backgrounds professionally and personally. It made me appreciate the differences that we all have and embrace their expertise and viewpoint over a certain topic, which I might have never thought of having a “pure” engineering outlook. The best part is that I have found everyone, whom I have approached, always friendly and warm. I used to have the notion of not asking for help if I am stuck and spend hours to solve any issues. Here I have found that everyone is so willing to help and learn together that I don’t hesitate in discussing and working in a team environment- and truly believe that the collaborative learning environment has made me a better researcher.

I am passionate about integrating technology for societal good. I will be the first Ph.D. in my family, and I chose Civil Engineering to work with complex systems, especially on water extremes. Growing up in India in the Himalayan foothills and influenced by the Ganges, I have seen communities struggle either accessing water or getting displaced by floods. Over the years, I have become motivated to unleash the power of remote sensing technology to help with the societal needs. This has scaffolded off experiences where I witnessed the impact of agencies helping communities with predictions regarding natural hazards such as landslides and save lives and property.

What I do in academia is not only a research work plan but also a part of my calling. I am hopeful that the Ph.D. will help me with the foundation for the next phase in postdoctoral mode- to create a mapping and decision support tool to help with flooding, especially for urban regions - in places where there is little to no warning.


  • NASA FINESST (Future investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology) fellow. This is a competitive award that is offered to candidates who submit their research proposal to be considered for the funding. NASA FINESST fellow receives three years of fellowship. (Title: Improving post-Hurricane Flood Modeling utilizing recent Satellite Products)
  • Lynn Fellowship from Purdue University, which is for PhD students who are admitted through an interdisciplinary program. Lynn Fellows receive assured four years of stipend/salary and tuition coverage.


  • Coauthor on a manuscript submitted and being revised/resubmitted for Geophysical Research Letters
  • Title: Impact of Urban Parameterization on Simulation of Hurricane Rainfall.
  • Abstract submitted about “Concept Study of Earth Remote Sensing System for Root Zone Soil Moisture for Improved Flood and Drought Risk Management” for CESUN 2020 Engineering Systems Symposium.
  • Author on the manuscript submitted and being revised to Environmental Fluid Mechanics (EFMC) Title: Experimental Data-driven Model of Bed-Load Transport.
  • Author on the manuscript for Contribution of Tropical Cyclones on Rainfall ‘Climatology’ over the south and the southeast US in the recent IMERG-era (2013- 2018) under preparation.


  • Oral presentation at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA, December 2019.
  • Title: Assessing Variability in Multi-sensor Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Estimates and the Impact on Urban Flood Simulation for Hurricane Florence (2018).
  • Oral presentation at the ICUC10- 10th International Conference on Urban Climate/ 14th AMS Symposium on the Urban Environment, New York City, August 2018.
  • Title: Urbanization Impacts on Rainfall and Temperature Changes over Asia Region, Paper 9E.4,


  • I serve as an ESE (Ecological Science and Engineering) Senator for the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG), which is the legislative arm for Purdue graduate student body.
  • I am also a member of Purdue Photography Club.
  • Member of ASCE
  • OIGP Science in Schools - Instructor 2018 -2019
  • Ecological Sciences and Engineering - Treasurer 2017-18, 2018-19
  • ESE Symposium – Marketing Team Member 2019
  • ESE Symposium Jury member for Video Competition - 2019
  • Organizing committee for Monsoon School at IISc 2017

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