Openings and opportunities

I am always looking for excellent postdoctoral scholars and students of all levels to join my group. More specifically, I am likely recruiting a PhD student with a start date of Fall 2022 and possibly also a postdoctoral scholar or research scientist with an anticipated start date around Summer to Fall 2022. If you are interested, feel free to contact me at jfkok *at* ucla *dot* edu. Please include your CV, (unofficial) transcripts, and a description of your background and research interests. I value a rigorous quantitative background, strong 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, but paying the application fee for our PhD program is a barrier for you, please contact me and I will try to help.

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 or human health 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 model ensemble. For the latter type of project, we usually build understanding of a key physical process, such as aerosol emission or deposition, 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? What are the impacts of dust on human health? 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.
  • Understanding how turbulence affects fluxes of dust aerosols, and how we can better link dust emission to the atmospheric boundary layer flow resolved in climate and weather models.
  • Understanding the deposition of coarse aerosols (mostly dust and sea salt). 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. The underestimation of coarse aerosols could be due to the effects of turbulence in absorbing aerosol layers, particle asphericity slowing down settling, or even the existence of strong electric fields in aerosol layers. We don’t know which of these processes is important but we’re going to find out!
  • Understanding the physics and climate impact of blowing snow.
  • Understanding the role of dust in nucleation of ice crystals in mixed-phase and cirrus clouds.

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.