My interests

My research focuses on satellite remote sensing of atmospheric pollution, especially measurements of ozone and carbon monoxide. The perspective from space allows us to see how pollution travels around the globe and how pollution is changing in different regions due to human activities and natural events. Staying active is also important to me, and my family (including our beagle) loves living in Boulder where we have outdoor activities all year.

How I became a scientist

I was always interested in a career in science, so I studied physics in college, and I had a fun job working on satellite data from Pioneer Venus. When I went to graduate school, there were many research choices in physics. Since Cornell has its own particle accelerator, I decided to work on the CLEO-II experiment where I measured photons from quark transitions. After graduation, I had opportunities to stay in particle physics or work on satellite spectrometers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It wasn’t an easy choice, and although I sometimes miss studying the basic building blocks of matter, I find that understanding pollution in the atmosphere is very compelling and has a more tangible impact on our daily lives. Also, I still measure photons – just ones with much lower energy.

How my work benefits society

Global air pollution continues to have significant detrimental health and economic impacts. Satellite measurements of atmospheric pollution, especially ozone and carbon monoxide, are used to analyze and predict air quality and determine how much pollution is produced upwind vs. locally. This information is needed for policy decisions on how to implement pollution controls when a region exceeds air quality index levels. I also study changes due to pollution control policies, such as how much carbon was reduced during the traffic restrictions of the Beijing Olympics.