Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

José-Luis Jiménez Earns Distinguished Professor Rank


The University of Colorado Board of Regents has named CIRES Fellow and chemistry professor José-Luis Jiménez a “Distinguished Professor,” the highest honor the University of Colorado bestows on a faculty member. Jiménez, an internationally recognized atmospheric chemist, is one of 11 people across the CU system to earn the honor this year. Jiménez’s work focuses on aerosols, tiny particles that float in the air and that have significant effects on climate and air pollution—and human health, including airborne transmission of viruses. 

“José is an inspiration for everyone in our field,” said CIRES Associate Director Margaret Tolbert, who led the nomination of Jiménez and is a Distinguished Professor and chemist herself. “Not only has he made major contributions to our understanding of the aerosol effects on air pollution and coronavirus transmission, but he is generous with his time and he inspires others in their own work.”

The Board of Regents’ announcement described Jiménez as “an exceptional teacher, researcher, and community member.” His research has focused on the details of aerosol pollution—how particles form in the atmosphere; how they move and behave, chemically; how they impact people, by degrading air quality, for example. Often, his team’s careful work has upended assumptions in his field, with implications for measures to protect air quality. Jiménez has “dramatically changed atmospheric chemistry for the better,” the Board wrote.

The Regents also cited his strong support for PhD students. Many of his most-cited papers are lead-authored by graduate students, they noted, demonstrating his work empowering next-generation leaders in his field.  Over the years, Jiménez has engaged his students in dozens of field campaigns, national and international, most to investigate the impact of aerosols on air quality and climate. His students have been remarkably successful, many of them finding careers in academia and industry.

“I am extremely honored to receive this distinction from CU, which also recognizes the work of our many current and former research group members over the last two decades. We look forward to continuing to innovate in teaching, research and outreach at CU Boulder,” Jiménez said. 

Jiménez shifted his research dramatically in 2020, in response to the COVID pandemic. “Professor Jiménez spent the year applying his aerosol expertise to understanding COVID-19 transmission,” the award announcement noted, “and among the results of his collaborative work: The World Health Organization acknowledged the virus is transmitted by aerosol. His work has not only inspired future researchers, significantly impacted the field of atmospheric aerosols, and proved an impactful, service-oriented member of the CU community, but it also saved lives.”

At CIRES, Jiménez joins the ranks of CIRES Fellows Margaret Tolbert (Chemistry), Peter Molnar (Geology), and Mark Serreze (Geography)—all Distinguished Professors already. 

“We are very proud of José’s achievements and tremendous contributions to the University’s mission, and we greatly appreciate the fact that they have been recognized in this way by the Regents,” said CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati. “His commitment to the highest standards of research and teaching are exemplary, and I am delighted that he is joining his similarly accomplished colleagues as a Distinguished Professor.”

Five other CU Boulder faculty members earned Distinguished Professor status this year: Andreas Becker in Physics and with the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Helen Norton in the School of Law; Ruth Ellen Kocher in English; Diane McKnight in the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research; and Gifford Miller in Geological Sciences and INSTAAR. 

The Regents will recognize the full cohort during a meeting next Spring.


CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.


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Katy Human
CIRES Communications

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