August 20, 2019
Web Feature

Providing an Education in Atmospheric Particles

With leadership from PNNL staff, two DOE user facilities team up to host 2019 Aerosol Summer School

Aircraft probe during 2019 Aerosol Summer School demonstration at PNNL’s Atmospheric Measurements Laboratory

Jason Tomlinson, ARM Aerial Facility engineering manager with students Susanne Glienke, Alexandra Klodt, Catherine Banach, and Jamy Lee.

Andrea Starr | PNNL

It might be summer vacation for some, but two dozen up-and-coming researchers studied hard during the 2019 Aerosol Summer School at PNNL.

The class list for the school, held July 15 to 19, included students from universities and scientific institutions in the United States, Canada, Germany, and India. Through lectures and lab demonstrations, PNNL researchers helped teach students about aerosols and how these tiny particles in the air can influence Earth systems.

Aerosols, which include organics, dust, sea salt, and industrial particles, play key roles in cloud formation. They also help determine how much solar energy reaches the surface of the Earth.

Two Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facilities co-hosted the summer school. EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is on the PNNL campus. The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility is operated by PNNL and eight other DOE national laboratories.

ARM and EMSL co-sponsored the school with DOE’s Atmospheric System Research program.

Power of Collaboration

Teachers included ARM and EMSL staff and users, and university professors. In addition to PNNL, instructors came from:

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Purdue University
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Stony Brook University
  • the University of California, Irvine
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Planning for the summer school began almost a year earlier. Nancy Hess, Jim Mather, and John Shilling of PNNL led the effort with Alexander Laskin, a former EMSL staff scientist now at Purdue University, and Allison McComiskey, chair of the Environmental and Climate Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Chosen out of 126 applicants, the students ranged from a post-bachelor’s research associate to postdoctoral researchers. They also came from diverse research areas and courses of study, including atmospheric science, chemistry, and engineering.

“We wanted them to be exposed to what was possible in terms of measurements either made at EMSL or data available at ARM that they could bring into their research,” said Hess, deputy of EMSL science areas. “What kind of measurements were being made, how were those used, and how that could inform different types of science questions.”

Observant Pupils

Students spent their mornings in an EMSL conference room, where they absorbed lectures about aerosol properties, theory, measurements, and modeling.

In afternoon demonstrations at EMSL and PNNL’s Atmospheric Measurements Laboratory, students explored instruments that collect and analyze aerosol samples. They included an environmental chamber designed to study the aerosol life cycle, measurement probes used on aircraft, and mass spectrometers. Students also worked on aerosol modeling simulations.

The 10-hour days provided ample time for students to ask questions and connect with one another and veteran researchers.

Jay Tomlin is entering his third year of PhD studies in atmospheric chemistry at Purdue University. He performs chemical imaging of atmospheric particle samples collected via aircraft, and his work has involved microscopy at EMSL. The summer school let him see other instruments that could tie into his research. He also learned about the instruments’ function, sampling capabilities, and design from the people who maintain them.

“It brings you a new perspective, and it makes you appreciate more the data you receive,” said Tomlin. “It’s not just numbers, there’s people behind them that allow that to become possible. There’s a team behind that.”

PNNL Contributors

PNNL staff who organized, managed, and/or taught the summer school included: Edoardo Apra, Larry Berg, Lee Brent, Susannah Burrows, Eric Bylaska, Duli Chand, Swarup China, Allison Coyne, Jerome Fast, Niri Govind, Mark Hartzell, Nancy Hess, Libor Kovarik, Gourihar Kulkarni, Douglas Mans, Jim Mather, Mary McGown, Fan Mei, Allie Moore, Beth Norris, Albert Rivas-Ubach, Noopur Sharma, John Shilling, ManishKumar Shrivastava, Isabelle Steinke, Kim Stewart, Jason Tomlinson, Hailong Wang, Xiao-Ying Yu, Rahul Zaveri, Alla Zelenyuk-Imre, and Zihua Zhu.

Published: August 20, 2019