Gonzalo Ferrada

Gonzalo Ferrada, Ph.D. student, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Designs atmospheric models of smoke

Hometown: Valparaiso, Chile
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Gregory Carmichael
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am a PhD candidate in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering with expected graduation date in December 2021.
Please describe your research: I develop atmospheric models to simulate the smoke from fires and how it is transported in the atmosphere. I have been focused on wildfires in the US West Coast and Rocky Mountains, as well as fires from deforestation in tropical regions: Amazon rainforest and African savannas. My research is funded by NASA and helps to understand the impact of smoke particles in the Earth System (radiation, cloud formation) and subsequent climate change.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? In the scientific community, it is still uncertain how smoke particles interact with the solar radiation and clouds. Because of this, NASA has conducted several field campaigns around the world to measure smoke using fully equipped airplanes. I have actively participated in those campaigns and use their data to incorporate that knowledge in atmospheric models. The ultimate goal of these campaigns is to have a better understanding of climate change.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began working on my research during my second semester. I traveled to a little country island in Africa called Sao Tome and Principe where the NASA campaign was based. I also have traveled to the western US several times for research.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? I have been able to attend and present in multiple conferences, participate in field experiments and make many contacts. This has impacted my personal and professional development very positively.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I would like to continue working in atmospheric research and air quality models. For that, I am thinking in doing a Post Doc at one of the multiple public institutions that focus on that.

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