For Patrick Veres (CIRES 2005 to today), graduate training at CIRES led to the chance to study air quality chemistry in Germany, to study smoke from wildfires in Montana—and it offered a path back to Boulder, CO, a global hotspot for atmospheric science. Today, Dr. Veres is a CIRES research scientist working in the NOAA Chemical Sciences Division, part of the Earth System Research Laboratory.
As an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, Dr. Veres first looked to a career as a park ranger or ecologist, until an undergraduate professor at Ohio State encouraged him to consider an academic career in chemistry. “In the field of chemistry you face a lot of laboratory work. Once I found fieldwork and the fact that we could do science with immediate and tangible results in the actual environment, that’s really what drove me to enter the field.” When deciding on a PhD program, Dr. Veres focused on Boulder, CO. “Boulder really stood out as being a unique epicenter for atmospheric research, chemistry and air quality.”
He worked with joint supervision by Joost de Gouw, a CIRES Fellow at NOAA, and Ray Fall, then also a CIRES Fellow and professor in the CU Boulder Chemistry and Biochemistry Department—a partnership that would allow him to flourish in the field. “A lot of their research is based on the development of instruments that can be used in field situations to measure different aspects of air quality. While I was here, the idea came up to develop an instrument based on some new chemistry that could target a new class of compounds, organic acids. We used this new chemistry to develop a mass spectrometer, to measure organic acids more quickly and frequently than previous instruments could.”
Dr. Veres took his new instrument on road, measuring emissions during prescribed burns in Missoula, MT at the Fire Sciences Laboratory and participating in a large-scale field project, known as the CALNEX Project in Pasadena, CA, where he measured emissions from a ground site on the California Institute of Technology campus. Post CIRES graduation and a post-doc with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, Dr. Veres was lured back to Boulder by NOAA mentor, Jim Roberts, and offered his dream job. “It is the job I have always wanted and hoped for—we’re presented with these specific challenges such as a unique pollution situation in Los Angeles or in a basin for oil and gas. We can focus a lot of effort on that over several years and try to understand where that pollution comes from and how to mitigate the situation. And so, while we continue to develop instrumentation to answer some of those questions, the problem keeps changing, which then continues to drive advances in instrumentation, push our abilities and adjust our focus.”
Dr. Veres credits Drs. Roberts and de Gouw for much of his success. “Without the guidance and support of those two individuals, I don’t think I would have been able to do this as fast as I did.” To find out more about Patrick’s’s work, visit his website: http://www.researcherid.com/rid/E-7441-2010