Atmospheric Science Researcher Wins SUNY Chancellor Distinguished PhD Graduate Dissertation Award

SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. presents Arshad Arjunan Nair with the Graduate Dissertation Award at ETEC.
SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. presents Arshad Arjunan Nair with the Graduate Dissertation Award at ETEC. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 24, 2023) — University at Albany researcher Arshad Arjunan Nair, PhD ’21, was recently announced as the winner of the SUNY Chancellor Distinguished PhD Graduate Dissertation Awards.

Created to recognize outstanding doctoral candidates in the SUNY system, the awards are granted each year to a first place winner, finalists and honorable mentions.

Nair, who earned a doctorate degree in Atmospheric Science and Meteorology at UAlbany, was awarded first place for his dissertation, “The Role of Ammonia in Atmospheric New Particle Formation and Implications for Cloud Condensation Nuclei.”

“SUNY offers a vibrant research environment where students come to join a community of scholars who are making the world a better place,” said SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. “I am confident that the exceptional recipients of this year’s Chancellor PhD Graduate Dissertation Awards will spark new ideas and change the way we think about everything from cloud formation to cognitive function. I congratulate each of those selected, particularly first-place winner Dr. Arshad Arjunan Nair for his work at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the University at Albany.”

“We are proud to see Dr. Nair receive this prestigious recognition of his research to help improve our understanding of atmospheric ammonia and uncertainties in climate models,” said University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez. “Dr. Nair’s work through our Atmospheric Sciences Research Center exemplifies the positive impact that researchers at the University at Albany, and throughout the SUNY system, are having on the greatest societal challenges that humanity faces today.”

Ammonia in the Atmosphere

Some of the largest uncertainties in climate modeling are linked to atmospheric aerosols, tiny particles from human activity that are suspended in the atmosphere and can affect cloud formation and properties.

Among the least understood contributors to aerosols is atmospheric ammonia, the most prevalent alkaline gas in our atmosphere. The harmful air pollutant mainly comes from agriculture, with additional sources in industrial and vehicular emissions. It has long been recognized for contributing to poor air quality and visibility.

Nair’s dissertation research aims to improve our understanding of ammonia and its role in atmospheric processes, which can then be transferred to a machine learning model to reduce uncertainties in climate modeling that are linked to cloud-forming aerosols.

He is continuing his research as a post-doctoral associate at UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, under the mentorship of ASRC senior research faculty Fangqun Yu and Professor Shao Lin of the School of Public Health.

“Gaseous ammonia is the most prevalent alkaline atmospheric pollutant, yet there remain knowledge gaps in its spatiotemporal abundances, roles in atmospheric processes and contribution to aerosol pollution,” Nair said. “My research leverages multiple perspectives across scales from the microphysical to the climate to tackle these issues. With implications for more accurate and trustworthy estimates of air quality impacts, this work will contribute to community climate and health resilience.”

SUNY Award Winners

SUNY graduates about 1,200 PhD students each year from its doctoral-granting campuses, with fields of study ranging from agriculture, biology, physical and social sciences to engineering and the fine arts. Competitions such as the Dissertation Awards bring attention to the next generation of leaders and researchers.

Nair received $5,000 as the top prize to be used for professional development. The other finalists were awarded $1,000 for professional development opportunities, and the honorable mentions were awarded $250.

“I’m honored and grateful to receive this recognition from Chancellor King and SUNY,” Nair said. “Being amongst top-notch faculty and students in the vibrant research environment at UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center enabled my transformation from a student of physics to an early career scientist equipped to tackle real-world issues through creative, critical, cross-disciplinary and collaborative research.”

All winners will also be invited to a workshop featuring a SUNY Press-facilitated panel discussion on how to turn their dissertation into a book. The panelists include editors and advisory board members from SUNY Press, as well as recently published book authors from across the system.