Openings and opportunities

I am often looking for excellent postdoctoral scholars and students of all levels to join my group. If you are interested, feel free to contact me at jfkok *at* ucla *dot* edu and include your CV, (unofficial) transcripts, and a description of your background and research interests. I value a rigorous quantitative background, strong coding skills, excellent communication skills, and evidence that you have overcome obstacles in your personal and professional life.

I am passionate about broadening participation of groups that have been historically underrepresented in science, and I particularly welcome interest from female applicants and underrepresented minorities. The Aerosols & Climate Interactions group is deliberate about providing a supportive environment for students and postdocs of all backgrounds, and engages actively with UCLA’s Center for Diverse Leadership in Science. If you are interested in joining my group as a PhD student, but paying the application fee is a barrier for you, please contact me and I will try to help by using grant funds to pay the fee for you.

Information on the PhD program in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA is available here, and details on the application process are here. To help demystify the mutual expectations in the graduate student – advisor relationship, I have put together some guidelines for graduate students in my group here.

Students and postdocs in my group generally focus on either answering a big picture question on the climatic impact of aerosols (usually desert dust), or on understanding a key atmospheric process that partially determines the impact of aerosols on the climate system. The former type of project usually uses climate model simulations, either by running the Community Earth System Model, or by analyzing existing simulations, such as from the AeroCom or the CMIP6 model ensemble. For the latter type of project, we usually build understanding of a key physical process, such as aerosol emission/deposition or aerosol-cloud interactions, using careful numerical simulations, data analysis, analytical theory, and sometimes laboratory and field measurements in collaboration with other research groups. Once the physical process is sufficiently understood, we represent the process in a simple parameterization that can be implemented in climate models.

Ongoing projects in my group, with opportunities for student involvement at different levels, include:

  • An NSF project to constrain how much dust is in the atmosphere and what some of its most important impacts are. At any given time, our atmosphere contains tens of millions of metric tons of desert dust. Surprisingly, many basic questions regarding the effects of tens of millions of metric tons of desert dust in the atmosphere are poorly known. How much dust is actually in the atmosphere? Does desert dust warm or cool our planet? Will future climate-induced changes in dust storms oppose or enhance man-made climate changes? This project will address these fundamental questions by leveraging satellite observations, experimental measurements of atmospheric dust and its properties, and climate model simulations of desert dust climate impacts. Here is a relevant paper on this project.
  • Another NSF project to understand the deposition of super coarse dust aerosols. The atmospheric abundance of these large particles is severely underestimated by climate models, causing a potentially substantial underestimation of the climate impact of these particles. Somehow, these particles stay aloft much longer (like ten times longer!) than models and simple physics predict! It’s quite mysterious and explanations proposed thus far include effects of turbulence in absorbing aerosol layers, particle asphericity slowing down settling, or even the existence of strong electric fields in aerosol layers somehow keeping these particle aloft. We don’t really know which of these processes is important yet but we’re going to find out! See a recent talk on this project here.
  • Determining the role that the increase in dust since pre-industrial times has played in modern climate changes.
  • Understanding the role of dust in nucleation of ice crystals in mixed-phase and cirrus clouds.
  • Understanding cirrus cloud thinning as a possible climate intervention strategy.

Graduate and postdoctoral fellowships

If you are a prospective graduate student or postdoctoral fellow interested in joining my group, you can also apply for your own funding through a number of fellowships. Graduate students can apply for a number of prestigious fellowships, including:

There also are a number of excellent fellowships for prospective postdoctoral fellows, including:

Provided that your research interests and qualifications are a good match for my group, I would be happy to advice you in preparing your fellowship application. Keep in mind that writing a competitive proposal takes a lot of time, so it’s best to start (and contact me) well ahead of the application deadline.