A Journey to Atmospheric Chemistry

Written by: Vanessa Valdez, CAICE 2022 SURP Fellow

I am a fourth year B.S. Biochemistry major set to graduate in the fall. I have previous research experience in an atmospheric science and loved to be able to expand on that knowledge in the NSF CAICE program.

My love of atmospheric science stemmed from when I first went vegan in 2014.

After watching a series of vegan documentaries, little did I know how much of the environment was being affected by something as normal as the food we eat daily. It was then that my love of the planet, the environment, and animals really sparked a passion in me to want to make a change.

When I started college, I knew that I wanted to be a chemistry major, but I did not know how I would be able to use my love of chemistry to follow my passions.

The second I learned about atmospheric chemistry/science, I knew that that was where my heart was calling me and this was the career choice for me.

Flashing forward to my project for NSF CAICE, we are trying to see if size affects aerosol viscosity. We are using the Electric Low-Pressure Impactor (ELPI) to measure a bounce fraction over the course of various sized sea spray aerosols emitted from the SOARS system.

Discovering a correlation between size and viscosity would allow modelers to better predict when certain aerosols will undergo ice nucleation and other critical physical reactions.

Some advice I would give to undergrads is to apply for as many summer research programs as you can!

This experience has been so enlightening and has made me so much more confident in my science knowledge and lab skills. This type of program not only is great for connections and networking, but also for meeting others who are in a similar position as you!

For me, it was so nice to be able to meet others and talk honestly about how difficult it is being in STEM and just the amount of pressure there is.

Being a first generation college student, it was especially tough to navigate through the complexity of college, in general, but on top of that trying to succeed in my difficult degree.

Meeting everyone that I have through this program has made me feel like I’m not alone in how I feel and we all go through similar challenges over the course of our educational careers.

This experience has truly been like no other and I am so fortunate to have been apart of it, so I definitely recommend applying to programs when you can!

Being seven weeks in, I already feel like I have grown and learned so many things that I cannot wait to see how far I’ve come by the end. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *