Environmental Chemistry Ph.D. student Meeta Cesler-Maloney studies how air pollution accumulates at the valley floor in Fairbanks during surface-based inversion events, where the air near the ground becomes colder than the air aloft and temperature increases with altitude. With Fairbanks being one of the most polluted cities she is motivated to improve air quality in cold environments. She says, “learning more about pollution accumulation in Fairbanks may be able to help us develop strategies to better understand and mitigate pollution, both in Fairbanks and in other cities that experience wintertime temperature inversions."
Before coming to Alaska, Meeta graduated from Indiana University with a double major in Geoscience and Chemistry. She says she “fell in love with chemistry after taking two 100-level classes,” and decided to stay an extra year to complete the second degree. With a strong interest in atmospheric chemistry, Meeta was inspired by her advisor to continue in the field of study.
In 2018, she accepted an offer to work with Dr. Bill Simpson in the UAF Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry because of his years of spectroscopy and leadership experience. She helped Dr. Simpson on the Alaskan Layered Pollution and Chemical Analysis (ALPACA) project by maintaining near-real-time trace gas monitors that provide information about the composition of the atmosphere at the ground level and also help support the analyses done by other project participants. She also helped collaborators from UCLA maintain a Long Path Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (LP-DOAS) instrument, which provides information about trace gasses in the atmosphere at different altitudes. The LP-DOAS measurements are very useful for her research, as the vertical distribution of pollutants can vary with altitude during inversion events. More information about the ALPACA project can be found here.
For incoming graduate students she recommends investing in a good pair of boots for the winter, don’t forget to look for the Aurora on clear nights and watch out for moose! Also, "don't compare yourself to other students". Every research group is different, and even within groups, your research may flow at a different pace compared to others in your group.