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

Rebecca Michelsen

Aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere vary widely in size, composition, and other properties. These characteristics evolve as aerosols are exposed to sunlight, temperature fluctuations, changes in humidity, and collisions with other particles. This project will contribute to a molecular-level and particle-level understanding of reactions of organic acids and their effects on aqueous aerosol particles. The common organic acids pyruvic acid, lactic acid, and their long-chain analogues will be studied in aqueous environments. Rebecca will collaborate with Veronica Vaida to elucidate reaction pathways and surface activity of the acids. She will work with Maggie Tolbert to observe reactions and particle properties of individually levitated microdroplets. These laboratory experiments will contribute to a detailed picture of aerosols in Earth’s environment, the refinement of regional and global atmospheric models, and potentially reduce the uncertainty from aerosols in climate models.