Plants and Their Role in the Atmosphere

I finally did it! Here is another science post discussing the role of plant emissions (specifically isoprene) have on our air quality and climate. Admittedly, this is a very brief summary, as isoprene chemistry is currently a hot research topic and there were simply too many avenues to discuss on a simple introductory post. However, I still hope you enjoy this intermission post as I prepare to head off to Michigan for my research trip. Again, my presence on the interwebs, especially this week, will be kind of spotty. Nevertheless, if you have any related questions, I will be very happy to answer them once I have internet! Enjoy!

biopact_isoprene_photosynthesisTypically, when the atmosphere is mentioned, it’s usually in the context of air quality and/or climate change. The former tends to focus on the emissions and subsequent transformations of air pollution that may be hazardous to human health. The latter, on the other hand, focuses on how greenhouse gases and atmospheric aerosols affect the radiative forcing of our planet. However, regardless of which one is being referring to, both are influenced by a complex interplay of an assortment of reactive compounds found within our atmosphere. Continue reading


The Flavors of Chemistry

hands with atom modelA few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about how the general public sees chemists. We came up with the conclusion that most people generally default to three main assumptions:

  1. Chemist = Pharmacist
  2. Chemist = Drug Dealer (Thanks, Breaking Bad…)
  3. Chemist = Someone in a lab coat and goggles manically laughing as colorful, toxic liquids boil in front of them (AKA: Mad Scientist)

Though the last assumption brings a smile to my face and granted, a good number of chemists become pharmacists, these assumptions only cover a minute fraction of what a chemist actually is. In fact, the field of chemistry is actually very diverse, and the scientists trained in understanding the basic concepts have a surplus of different career opportunities spread across most STEM disciplines.

Continue reading

Lessons from Packing for Field Research

recently-updated140-650x840So two weekends ago, I had to help a couple lab members get ready for their research field campaign. It was quite a learning experience, if I do say so myself, especially because I will have to be doing the same for my field work in a few short months. Anyway, because I found the experience so humorous and insightful, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned with those who are or are planning to be in disciplines that do a lot of field work. Continue reading

Ammonia Pollution: Validation of Space-Based Emission Profiles

This week, I present to you a “News and Views” type science article that I had to write for a class last quarter! Depending on the popularity of this post (as well as my own time constraints) I would like to start writing more of these types of blog posts, particularly for areas more closely related to my specific research goals. Let me know if this is something you’re interested in!

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient that plants need to grow, but in the environment it mostly takes the form of unreactive N2 gas. It is only through the invention of the Haber-Bosch processes that N2 can be transformed into large quantities of reactive nitrogen species that can be utilized to increase crop production to levels that can sustain our world’s population. Of these manufactured forms of nitrogen, ammonia (NH3) dominates, accounting for 55% of man-made emissions with its main source being agricultural operations1. Due to our need to increase food production, ammonia emissions have more than doubled since preindustrial times and are predicted to continue increasing in the future2. Continue reading