Keith Hautala

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College: Arts and Sciences

UK Grad Student Earns Top Honor from American Geophysical Union

Published: Feb 12, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 12, 2014) —  Liz Pillar, a graduate student in the University of Kentucky's Department of Chemistry received the Outstanding Student Paper Award from the American Geophysical Union at its fall 2013 meeting.
 

AGU is a nonprofit organization of geophysicists with more than 62,000 members from 144 countries. At its most recent meeting, in December, some 24,000 people presented and discussed the newest interdisciplinary and international research in geophysics.

 

Only the top 3 percent of student presenters are awarded the Outstanding Student Paper Award. Pillar says she was surprised to be chosen for her work in atmospheric sciences. 

 
“I had no idea I even had a shot at winning, but it was really exciting," she said.
 

The geophysical sciences include four fundamental areas: atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences; and space sciences. Pillar was recognized for her work studying the loss of ozone, a key atmospheric gas, catalyzed by iodide.
 

“Liz’s research opens new avenues for studying reactions of atmospheric relevance,” said Assistant Professor Marcelo Guzman, Pillar’s advisor and head of the research lab.
 

Many people understand that ozone serves as protection against ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere. Fewer people know that in the lower atmosphere, ozone is a pollutant and an oxidizing agent. Yet, previous knowledge could only explain about half of observed ozone losses, which means that there is still much to learn about the ozone cycle and how it affects the lower atmosphere.
 

This prompted Pillar to investigate the role that iodide may be playing in catalyzing the destruction of ozone at the air-water boundary of aerosols. Pillar’s work discovered that iodide can destroy ozone under atmospheric conditions. What’s more important is that they found that more reactive species can be formed and further transmit the cycle of ozone destruction in the troposphere. Environmental models can include these species and better predict what is going on in the atmosphere.
 

“Liz has proven to be a perseverant and creative researcher, a requirement needed to conduct extraordinary research,” Guzman said.
 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, 859-323-2396; keith.hautala@uky.edu 

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