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Student Focus: Kelly Baustian

After investigating what makes a lab-generated particle conducive to ice formation, scientists are turning their attention to particles collected directly from the environment.

Kelly Baustian, a graduate student with Distinguished Professor and CIRES Fellow Margaret Tolbert's group, collected particle samples at the Desert Research Institute's Storm Peak Laboratory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in January 2010, to find out which particles lend themselves to ice cloud formation in nature.

Samples of particles collected from the great outdoors were brought back to the lab and put through paces similar to their laboratory-generated counterparts.

During preliminary work, Baustian observed that, just as with lab-generated particles, ice will only form on certain ones. Analysis of chemical and physical composition will help suss out what makes one particle so ice-friendly and others not, the researchers expect, and results can be compared with those from laboratory-generated samples.

These results could help researchers better understand how airborne particles, such as those emitted from factories or airplanes, can lead to the formation of ice crystals that make up climate-warming cirrus clouds.

"Working with these samples has given me a new appreciation for the complexity of our atmosphere," said Baustian, "and how susceptible it is to human alteration."

Kelly Baustian earned a Graduate Student Research Fellowship to support her work. CIRES offers graduate student fellowships.

Learn Moreabout CIRES fellowships at