AAAR 2015

I recently attended the annual conference of the American Association for Aerosol Research, which was held this year in Minneapolis. Having been based in Europe until this summer I hadn’t attended this meeting before.

There were many interesting sessions on atmospheric aerosols, aerosol nucleation and growth and instrumentation that were directly relevant to my research. There was also the odd moment where I got to drop in on sessions on subjects that are completely new to me, such as aerosols in urban environments and indoor aerosols. These have a strong focus on the health implications of aerosol, which you can find some background to here.

The plenary sessions that kicked off each day were on a diverse set of themes. One was given by a physician on the health affects of aerosols, another by Linsey Marr on  nanomaterials (engineered structures on the scale of 10^-9 m) , a third on the relationship between science and public policy in the USA and the last on how aerosol affects on climate need to be taken into account more by policy makers. After presenting the science in this last lecture (highlighting the large role aerosols play in water circulation, and how this will adversely affect many poorer nations), the speaker, Veerabhandran Ramanathan, spoke passionately about how it is no longer enough for scientists to investigate the science and present their findings to policy makers, but that religious leaders are now needed to highlight the moral aspects of human effects on climate and policy decisions. It was very unusual to have morality and religion so explicitly mentioned at a science meeting (something the speaker himself remarked upon), but it did spark some very interested discussions over the following coffee break and gave us all an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture.

I presented a poster on my work preparing instruments for the upcoming ATom campaign. Presenting a poster is good fun and generally facilitates more one-on-one conversations than giving an oral presentation. The allotted session was about 2 hours, during which I resisted the temptation to go and talk to everyone else presenting their posters about the work they were doing, and stayed by my poster to talk with people about my work. It was a busy two hours, with lots of interesting questions both about the instrumentation and the campaign, and lots of insights people share with me about work they’d done that might be relevant. Two non-scientist friends helped me out with the poster. Josh is a photographer (Vertucci Visual), who came to my lab one morning to take photographs of my set-up and instruments, some of which I featured on the poster. He enjoyed the opportunity to see inside a lab and learn a bit more about the work I do, and it was nice for me to show a friend what it is I really do at work. Alexandre Genovese is a a 3D motion media designer who, after I explained to him how scientists make posters of their work to explain it to other scientists, offered to help me with some of the graphics and produced wonderful 3-D drawings of some lab set-ups I wanted to present. These made it instantaneously clear to visitors to my poster how the system worked, which is really helpful when you have 2 hours to understand a large number of posters. It was a fun exercise for both us translating what is physically happening in my lab into his 3D realisations. For those interested, the poster is attached here as a pdf. Any feedback is very welcome.

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