UC Clermont student wins university writing contest

Research paper focused on improving the tornado rating system

University of Cincinnati Clermont College student Jacob Widanski has taken home the top prize for the research category in the 2020-21 UC Composition Writing Contest.

The university-wide contest is held annually and recognizes the best student writing from across UC campuses, awarding monetary prizes to winners in Preparatory Composition, English Composition I, and Intermediate Composition courses. The contest also rewards outstanding undergraduate research, exemplary forays into multimedia composing and compositions that express innovative ideas about community action and social justice. More than 100 submissions are typically entered each year.

Widanski’s paper focused on whether the aging tornado rating system, whose origins date back to the 1970s, should be reformed. He has a special interest in science — Widanski’s mother, Bozena Widanski, is a chemistry professor at UC Clermont — and the College Credit Plus student, who is also a junior at West Clermont High School, said he is interested in possibly pursuing a career in meteorology or related field.

Accurately assessing tornado severity is important in understanding how climate change is affecting storms.

Jacob Widanski UC Clermont student; winner, UC Writing Contest, research category

“I’ve been fascinated by weather my entire life, especially severe storms and winter weather, so the topic was fitting for me,” Widanski said. “I was always interested in science as a child and in doing science projects for fun. I like experiments and hypotheses; coming up with different questions and trying to answer those questions. I want to learn more about the world.”

Widanski said addressing the aging tornado rating system — which measures storms based on the extent of the damage they can cause — is crucial in examining the potential effects of climate change on tornado frequency, severity and variability.

“Accurately assessing tornado severity is important in understanding how climate change is affecting storms,” Widanski said. “But it’s also critical to help meteorologists, emergency managers, engineers and other individuals in both the public and private sector prepare for future storms by building stronger infrastructure and more accurately assessing tornado vulnerability.”

UC Clermont English Professor Gregory Sojka, who taught Widanski’s English composition class last fall and encouraged the student to enter the writing contest, said the winning entry was born of an assignment that helps students learn the process of writing a research paper.

“Every step of the way, Jacob refined his research question,” Sojka said. “He exceeded the standards; I require a research paper to be eight-10 pages long; Jacob’s was 15, plus four pages of works cited. He used scientific evidence in an effective way but talked about why a general reader should be interested in this paper.”

Sojka, who said he aims to “take the mystery out of writing” for his students, holds up Widanski’s win as a point of pride not just for the student, but the college.

“Thousands of students take a composition I class at UC each year. All write a research paper,” Sojka said. “All students are encouraged to enter. For one of our students to enter and win as the best is amazing.”