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ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY: STUDYING AIRBORNE SEA SALT
Name: Prasad Pokkunuri
Departments: Chemistry; mechanical & aerospace engineering
Research advisers: Barbara Finlayson-Pitts and Donald Dabdub
Research focus: I use computers to study the physics and chemistry of airborne particles.
Education: Doctorate, mechanical engineering, UC Riverside.
Why I came to UCI: I wanted to do interdisciplinary research that was different from my doctoral work.
Where I want to go from here: A national research laboratory
Family status: My parents are in India; they visit me now and then. I have a sister and brother-in-law in India.
Interesting fact about me: I am vegetarian and have never eaten meat or fish.
What do you do?
Prasad Pokkunuri likes to do two things at once – or three, or four. Multitasking is central to his postdoctoral work refining computer simulations of how airborne sea salt releases ozone-depleting chemicals.
“I like that it is not a simple process,” Pokkunuri says. “You have to know about a lot of areas, including chemistry, physics, mathematics and programming to do computer modeling.”
Pokkunuri works with AirUCI, UC Irvine’s atmospheric chemistry research group. Under Donald Dabdub and Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, he uses computers to reproduce results from laboratory experiments that track emissions of chlorine and bromine from sea-salt particles, which can influence ozone levels in Earth’s lower atmosphere.
“My work is increasingly relevant these days, with the heightened focus on the environment and climate,” Pokkunuri says.
Your career path?
Pokkunuri came to UCI in 2007 from UC Riverside, where he researched hydrogen combustion. AirUCI, he says, has allowed him to learn a different but related field, and is preparing him for his next career step – a position in a national research laboratory.
“UCI has a very active research community, which I think is an advantage to a postdoc,” Pokkunuri says. “We have a lot of seminars and frequent discussions about our research.”
He received his bachelor’s in India from IIT Kharagpur (Mechanical Engineering) , his native country, before coming to the U.S. in 2002. He would like to work in Europe or Australia before returning to India, where his parents and younger sister live.
In his free time, Pokkunuri skis, runs, bikes and swims, and he is learning to surf.