Trainee Update: Alexander MacDonald

UA SRP trainee, Alexander MacDonald, working under the direction of Dr. Armin Sorooshian, won a UA Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) Travel Grant to go to the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting (New Orleans, December 11-15, 2017). At the meeting, he presented a poster on his research on aerosol-cloud interactions. MacDonald said of the experience:  “It was great! It was really valuable to get good feedback from people who know about this.” “I saw a lot of former UA SRP trainees at the meeting” he added.

The research presented at AGU was the subject of a manuscript that was published in February 2018 entitled ‘Characteristic Vertical Profiles of Cloud Water Composition in Marine Stratocumulus Clouds and Relationships with Precipitation’ in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. In describing this article, MacDonald said “We analyzed what the stuff dissolved in the cloud droplets is,” simultaneously sketching a picture of a cloud as he spoke. “We looked at how the composition of cloud water changes within a cloud, at the base, at the middle, at the top.” Pointing to his drawing, he demonstrated a series of principles, about how cloud droplets seed – onto salt, dust, bacteria or pollutants – about where certain particles in clouds tend to condense, the size of the particles and the way to collect samples. “We go on different flights and we do different sounding patterns,” MacDonald said. “Sometimes we just zip through the clouds, sometimes we go bottom up, sometimes we go in and we measure one layer then we go up to the next layer and the next layer.”

According to MacDonald, he learned how to communicate science effectively to non-scientists as part of the UA SRP Training Core, led by Dr. Monica Ramirez-Andreotta UA SRP research translation core director. “Being a UA SRP trainee, a big part of that training was to make good visual abstracts, and learn how to communicate what you want to say with a picture, with a drawing,” MacDonald said. “I learned that a picture speaks a thousand words.” MacDonald called his time as part of the UA SRP Training Core valuable and helpful!  “It was a great training to learn how to better communicate, how to place yourself in people’s shoes who know nothing about science,” MacDonald said. “You have to explain it to them in such a way that doesn’t compromise – that makes it understandable, but not watered down.” 

MacDonald will be part of a team going to the Philippines this summer (2018), sponsored by the Navy and NASA, to do more cloud droplet testing, and he’ll communicate what he finds with the skills learned with the UA SRP.

Well done Alex MacDonald! Keep up the great work!


MacDonald, A. B., Dadashazar, H., Chuang, P. Y., Crosbie, E., Wang, H., Wang, Z., Jonsson, H. H., Flagan, R. C., Seinfeld, J. H., & Sorooshian, A. (2018). Characteristic Vertical Profiles of Cloud Water Composition in Marine Stratocumulus Clouds and Relationships with Precipitation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123.

Braun, R., Dadashazar, H., MacDonald, A. B., Aldhaif, A., Maudlin, L. C., Crosbie, E., Azadi Aghdam, M., Hossein Mardi, A., & Sorooshian, A. (2017), Impact of wildfire emissions on chloride and bromide depletion in aerosol particles. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(16), 9013–9021.

Schlosser, J. S., Braun, R. A., Bradley, T., Dadashazar, H., MacDonald, A. B., Aldhaif, A. A., Azadi, Aghdam, M., Hossein Mardi, A., Xian, P., & Sorooshian, A. (2017). Analysis of Aerosol Composition Data for Western United States Wildfires Between 2005-2015: Dust Emissions, Chloride Depletion, and Most Enhanced Aerosol Constituents. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 122(16), 8951–8966.