Atmospheric Science—PhD

Climate change. Air pollution. Emissions. Wild fires. The Atmospheric Science—PhD program provides opportunities to study cloud formation in our cloud chamber facility or to learn the impacts of air pollutants emitted in North America and Europe at the Pico Mountain Observatory in Portugal.

Measurements at Pico Mountain study the free atmosphere that is not directly affected by the ocean, and to see pollution transport events originating in North America and Europe. The station was developed to study the global impacts of human activities on the atmosphere. It has proven valuable for learning about the effects of large wild fires in North America and Siberia. Michigan Tech physics faculty are an integral part of research at the observatory and collaborate with many universities and research groups.

Our physics faculty concentrate their research efforts in Earth’s atmosphere by studying ice in the atmosphere to faster-than-terminal fall speeds of raindrops, as part of the PI cloud chamber group. The group has built the world’s largest cloud chamber, the PI Chamber, which draws researchers and students alike to study the microphysics of clouds.

Atmospheric Physics Faculty

The membership of the cloud chamber group at Michigan Tech is plentiful–in fact, there are 12 full-time faculty in the interdisciplinary atmospheric sciences program but the following physics faculty make considerable contributions to atmospheric studies at Michigan Tech.

Will H. Cantrell

  • Professor, Physics
  • Director, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences Institute (EPSSI)
  • Director, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)


  • Atmospheric Science

Alex B. Kostinski

  • Professor, Physics


  • Atmospheric Physics

Claudio Mazzoleni

  • Associate Professor, Physics


  • Atmospheric Science
  • Aerosol properties (optical, physical and morphological) and effects on clouds and climate
  • Instrument development and environmental optics

Raymond A. Shaw

  • Professor, Physics
  • Director, Atmospheric Sciences Ph.D. Program

Research Interests

  • Atmospheric Physics
  • Cloud Physics
  • Nucleation
  • Turbulence
  • Digital Holography

Graduate Researcher Spotlight

Fan Yan, 2017, Atmospheric Sciences PhD

Yan studied ice particles in our cloud facility. According to Yang, ice particles in atmospheric clouds play an important role in determining cloud lifetime, precipitation, and radiation, which is important for understanding weather and climate changes. Additional graduate research can be found through our thesis and diserations.

Preview image for  video

High speed video is used to investigate heterogeneous ice nucleation in supercooled droplets resting on cold substrates under two different dynamic conditions: droplet electrowetting and droplet vibration.