Margaret A. Tolbert

Margaret A. Tolbert

Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 1986
Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Office: CIRES 146
Phone: 303-492-3179
Web: Margaret Tolbert Research Group
Professor Tolbert, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Research Interests

Atmospheric chemistry; heterogeneous reactions, polar stratospheric clouds and cirrus clouds, nucleation, and planetary atmospheres.

Current Research: Heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry: Earth and beyond

Research in the Tolbert Group is focused on heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry—specifically determining the chemical, physical, and optical properties of atmospheric particulate. In addition to fundamental studies of particles, we are also exploring how atmospheric particulate affects current problems such as stratospheric ozone depletion, global climate change, urban smog, and visibility degradation. As well as studies of atmospheric aerosols on current-day Earth, we are also probing the particles that might have been present at the earliest times in Earth’s history. We are interested in how those particles might have impacted the climate of early Earth and the development of life on Earth. As a parallel to early Earth, we are also studying aerosols and clouds on other planetary bodies such as Mars and Titan. For studies relevant to Mars, we are probing salt deliquescence and efflorescence to help predict the formation of aqueous solutions on Mars today. For Titan, we are studying the formation of organic haze particles to gain insight into the particles that completely shroud this Saturnian moon. Our work is primarily laboratory-based, using state-of-the-art instrumentation to explore particle composition, morphology, phase changes, optical properties, and ice-nucleating ability. One focus of the work is understanding complex structures in secondary organic aerosol particles and how those structures change as the relative humidity in the atmosphere changes. In addition to laboratory work, the Tolbert Group is also involved in collaborations with theory teams and those performing
fieldwork around the world. A recent collaboration focused on studying particles in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, one of the most polluted cities in the world in terms of particulate matter. Primary support for our work comes from the National Science Foundation and NASA.


Simulated secondary organic aerosol particle containing ammonium sulfate undergoes
phase changes during deliquescence as the relative humidity (RH) is increased.


Collage showing Earth, Titan, and possible early Earth with varying amounts of haze.


Click here for a complete list of published works »

See Also

University of Colorado Sponsored Research 2003-04 Feature Highlighting Some of CU's outstanding Women Scholars, "Contemplating the Clouds"

Dr. Tolbert is a member of the CIRES Professor..