Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Cooperative Institute for Research
in Environmental Sciences

Margaret Tolbert Group

Magaret A. Tolbert

Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (Analytical, Environmental, and Atmospheric Chemistry Division)
Fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

CU Distinguished Professor, 2010
Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology, 2009
Hazel Barnes Prize, 2007
Guggenheim Fellowship, 2005
National Academy of Sciences Member, 2004
NASA Group Achievement Award, Crystal-Face Science Team, 2003
NASA Group Achievement Award, SOLVE Experiment, 2001
BFA Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarly and Creative Work, 2001

Curriculum Vitae [ PDF ]

Office: CIRES 166
Tel: 303.492.3179

We are a research group in the department of Chemistry and CIRES at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Our research is aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the Earth's complex atmosphere. Specifically, work in our group specializes in understanding atmospheric heterogeneous chemistry. For example, the importance of heterogeneous chemistry in catalyzing stratospheric ozone loss has been firmly established. In the case of the ozone hole, reactions on polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) are responsible for repartitioning chlorine reservoir species into photochemically active species capable of catalytically destroying ozone. However, significant questions still remain as to the composition, phase, nucleation mechanisms, and surface chemistry of PSCs. Traditionally, work in our group has been aimed at answering these questions.

Today, the research in our group has expanded in an attempt to answer similar questions about cirrus clouds and other particulate matter that exist in the troposphere. Currently, our research explores the chemistry of tropospheric aerosols, and the impact of such aerosols on climate and visibility. Finally, we are also probing aerosols in other planetary atmospheres and studying the possible role of aerosols on early Earth as life was developing. Research in our group is funded primarily through NASA and NSF.


Prospective Students

In the News

Recent Graduate - Raea Hicks.  A recent graduate of the Tolbert group, Raea's research focused on understanding the conversion of planetary atmospheric gases into aerosols.  To do this, she first made aerosol analogs by initiating photochemistry in gas mixtures relevant to the atmospheres of Titan and early Earth, then analyzed the products in situ with a specialized instrument called an aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS).  Specifically, she used isotopic labeling to determine the roles played by CH4 and CO2 in contributing carbon to early Earth aerosol analogs, and performed studies to deduce the role of pressure in nitrogen incorporation into Titan aerosol analogs.  As each study involved a different non-standard use of the AMS, Raea created new techniques to perform the experiments and analyze the data.  Now a post-doc at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Raea leverages her expertise in non-standard AMS applications to address questions related to soil science.  In particular, she hopes to discover factors that control the conversion of carbon from soil organic matter to greenhouse gases.

Where are they now?  Dr. Danielle Nuding has taken a position as a Systems Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Dr. Nuding will be working on mission development for assigned JPL flight projects, which will include developing systems and mission level architectures. Dr. Gregg Schill was awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and will be working with Prof. Paul DeMott at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. Dr. Schill will be continuing ice nucleation studies, but on ambient aerosol from biomass burning and fossil fuel combustion. Dr. Kyle Zarzana will join Dr. Steve Brown's group at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, CO. Dr. Zarzana will be using cavity enhanced spectroscopy to study glyoxal and other traces gases.

Margaret Tolbert Named CU Distinguished Professor
The University of Colorado Board of Regents awarded Margaret Tolbert, Ph.D., a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and two other CU professors the university’s highest faculty honor, designation as Distinguished Professor, Friday, Sept., 17, 2010.  Distinguished Professors are CU faculty members who are leaders in their fields and are recognized for their outstanding contributions in teaching, research and distinguished scholarship or creative work. To date, 56 professors across the CU system hold the title.

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