My interests

My research interests currently focus on how wildfire smoke affects the climate. Because models are fairly low resolution, they can’t make out what is happening within a smoke plume or even the smoke plume as a whole. To deal with this, we make a bunch of equations, called parameterizations, to estimate what the smoke plumes are doing based on things like wind speed, the size of the plume, and the vegetation that is burning. What is important for us to track is the chemical composition of the plume and the size of the particles, because some of them can help form clouds and others won’t. This can then be used in climate models to get a better idea of how the climate might change in the future.

How I became a scientist

I’ve always been a scientist. I’d say that’s true for everyone. If you watch kids run around, you can see that they are doing experiments all the time. Of course, being a scientist in the professional sense can be a little more challenging, and I’m still on my way to that. I went to a very big undergraduate school where the introductory science classes were set up to help the extremely competitive engineering departments find out who to ‘weed out’: the tests were written to take longer than the allotted time and almost everyone got a grade they were disappointed in. I’m incredibly glad that I persevered through that (it’s not how most of school works!) and found a small major where the professors worked hard to make sure everyone was learning the material. Now in graduate school more than ever I have a solid network of peers and professors and amazing research to pursue.

How my work benefits society

As climate change becomes more real, policy-makers will have to make a lot of hard choices. I am hoping that my work will help guide that. Recent work has found that as the climate warms, forest fires are expected to increase so their effect will, too. This is a problem even if forest fires don’t impact climate very much because smoke is also bad for our health.