More than 90 students have graduated with doctoral degrees from the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program since 1972. The graduates of the Program are now leaders and pioneers in their fields of atmospheric and oceanic research.
Yi Huang '08
"Satellite-Observed and Model-Simulated Outgoing Longwave Radiation Spectra"
McGill University, Assistant Professor
I entered the AOS program in 2003 and graduated in 2008. I earned my Ph.D. dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Ramaswamy. I was and remain interested in studying the radiation energy of the climate system.
One thing that I will never forget about the years in the AOS program is the shuttle bus that I rode and drove. The program is located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus. The “Forrestal” here does not mean trees but the campus, in fact, is beside a forest and is away from the main campus where most students live. When I was in the program, the University had not run a bus line between the two campuses yet. So, to help the students commute, the program provided a Ford van that could seat more than ten. The coolest thing about the shuttle is that it was run by the students! After passing the University’s driving test, I became a driver. For three years, I had driven the van with my fellow students down Route 1 to GFDL in the morning and then returned in the late afternoon. Our typical days started with chitchat and laughter on the shuttle and ended in the same way.
The shuttle is just one example that shows the care and support that the Program offered the students. The AOS students, a small student body, are very well bonded. Besides the unparalleled faculty and facility, the bonding and support between the students is another wonderful thing that the program has. It is a resource that each and every student contributes to and benefits from. An AOS student can easily find a successful example among the more senior students or alumni to follow at every stage of his career: student and postdoc fellowships, academic jobs and various other competitions. You will find the role models are distinguished not only for their academic achievement, but also for their willingness to share and to help. This is a great benefit of being an AOS student. Many of my fellow students have become helpful colleagues and best friends. To me, seeing them in conferences is like reuniting with family.
Huiyan (Helen) Yang ’05
“The Modeling of Tropospheric Photochemistry and Black Carbon Aerosol: Examination of Radiation, Transformation, Concentrations, and Emission Reduction Aspects”
Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM)
Princeton is a prestigious university, and AOS/GFDL has nurtured top scientists in the field. It is a dream place for me. A former AOS graduate student from Peking University introduced me to the AOS website when I was wondering where to apply for graduate school.
I spent most of my time during the first year on the GFD courses. The courses were hard, and I doubted my capacity to fulfill all the requirements sometimes. It was a relief when I heard from a faculty member that he would cry on his first GFD homework. Nevertheless, another challenge emerged more urgently after the first year, which is the thesis research. AOS graduate students have a good deal of flexibility to decide what topic to pursue, which is good training as it produces independence.
When I reflect on the years at Princeton, I would say it was worthwhile to spend my best years with the right people at the right place. The strict academic training strengthened my mind to inquire into scientific problems, and the combination of atmospheric and oceanic sciences in one program widened my research horizon. Furthermore, I participated in the Princeton Environmental Institute - Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program (PEI-STEP), and earned a Graduate Certificate in STEP at the Woodrow Wilson School. This experience shortened the gap between scientific research and the real world through the policy bridge.
I had a baby one year before graduation, which was a time blended with stress and joy. Overall Princeton is a place you can survive, enjoy, and build yourself up.
Irina Marinov '05
I completed my Ph.D. in January 2005. With the encouragement and help of my Princeton and GFDL professors, I applied for and won the prestigious NOAA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Climate and Global Change. On this fellowship, I went to MIT and continued to study how the ocean circulation, chemistry and biology control levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Currently, I am a postdoc in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Dept at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I continue to work closely with my colleagues at Princeton and keep in touch/see regularly the fantastic friends I made while a student in Princeton. The graduate program in Princeton prepared me very well for an exciting academic career.
Ultimately, of course, choosing between different schools comes down to a vibe or feeling. When I visited Princeton, I had a vibe that I would be happy here. And I was. On both the personal and professional level, my years in Princeton have been among the best in my life.
During my first two years in the AOS program at Princeton I took a lot of classes, and bonded with my classmates over homework sets and projects. While during my first 2 years I worked with Prof. Isaac Held on theoretical/turbulence type research, I subsequently shifted to the more applied field of carbon research and was advised by Prof. Anand Gnandesikan and Prof. Jorge Sarmiento. I also worked closely with Dr. Robbie Toggweiler of GFDL.
Our program is one of the few which allows graduate students to switch advisors or subfields even a few years into the graduate school process. This flexibility is particularly important for students like me, who come from small liberal arts schools and do not know from the beginning which subfield to pursue.
Curtis Deutsch '03
When I was applying to graduate school, I had a huge book cataloguing all of the graduate programs in the U.S. for physics (my undergraduate major). I had nearly given up on inspiration when I found tucked in the back pages a short description of Princeton’s AOS program. I felt I’d found a secret gem where rigorous physical science pursues questions that are both incredibly challenging and meaningful to me. I was inspired by the idea of entering a graduate program where my scientific training might be genuinely interesting to friends, family, and the person next to me on the train (e.g. from Princeton to New York in under an hour!). Within my first year of studies, The Kyoto Protocol and El Nino were daily news items and I knew I’d made the right decision. I ended up focusing on aspects of the global carbon cycle and ocean biogeochemistry with Professor Jorge Sarmiento. The freedom to choose an advisor among the faculty members, all of them leaders in the field, and to identify my own research topic was incredibly valuable, as was the background I received in the core AOS courses. Princeton’s AOS program is distinguished not only by the depth of expertise in climate research, but also by its breadth, using theoretical, modeling and observational approaches to investigate physical as well as chemical and biological processes in the climate system covering time scales from the distant past to our potential climatic future and finally, the implications of this scientific understanding for policy and decision making.
I may have been the last student to ever search for a graduate program in a book, which is just as well for Princeton’s AOS program. I long ago realized what you, reader, already know from finding this website: that the AOS program is not an obscure program for the dusty back pages but a world renowned center for cutting edge climate research. I encourage you to explore further the amazing accomplishments of its faculty and students. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at UCLA (cdeutsch-at-atmos.ucla.edu), where I started as an assistant professor in Fall of 2007. Good Luck!
Tracey Holloway '01
At Tiger Noodles, my favorite Chinese restaurant in Princeton, I received one night the following fortune cookie: "Great things await, if you work a little harder." I taped the red-printed fortune to the top of my computer, and it became my mantra during the final months of dissertation-writing. By that time, however, I did not need a fortune cookie to remind me to work hard--years at Princeton had taught me that if I work harder than I've worked before, I can accomplish more than ever expected. I remember the late nights studying for general exams and the weekends debugging Fortran code. But, my more potent memories are those of the accepted papers, the passed exams, the lasting friendships, and the delicious Chinese food.
I started at Princeton in 1995 and completed my Ph.D. in August, 2001, in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) Program. I was interested in public policy as well as science, and participated in the Princeton Environmental Institute-Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Program (PEI-STEP). Through my PEI-STEP participation, I earned Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School, and incorporated policy issues into my dissertation. I went on to a post-doc at Columbia University's Earth Institute. My work there focussed on the role of air pollution models in public health and policy assessments. Since August, 2003, I have been an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
When deciding where to apply for graduate school, Princeton appealed to me as a prestigious university well-suited to my academic interests in numerical modeling of the atmosphere. After having been accepted by a number of strong programs, however, I could base my decision on personal as well as academic considerations. In the end, I chose Princeton because I thought I would be happy there. The professors were nice, the students were friendly, and the flowers were blooming on the trees during my April visit.
My initial impressions were correct--I was very happy. For three years, I lived in the Graduate College, since I liked the community of students there, as well as the old rooms overlooking the golf course. From the GC, I moved to an aging duplex on Wiggins Street, shared with an ever-changing collection of housemates. We would eat breakfast on our porch in the summertime, and throw big parties late into the night.
The AOS Program offered close interactions with faculty and other members of the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The computing resources were extraordinary, and my advisor was the best ever. The flexibility of the AOS Program allowed me to tailor a research program well-suited to my interests, and I was able to benefit from the expertise of faculty in a number of different departments. Overall, I had an extremely positive experience at Princeton, and my time there helped get my career off to a good start.
Tapio Schneider '01
GFDL and Princeton's associated AOS Program have a reputation of excellence in theoretical research on and modeling of global-scale climate dynamics. I chose Princeton's AOS Program because its faculty offers a blend of expertise in theoretical, computational, and observational studies of the global climate that is unique worldwide.
The AOS Program is one of the few graduate programs in which the atmosphere and ocean are studied not as separate entities, but as coupled components of the climate system, with similar fluid dynamical phenomena and with connections between them, for example, through heat exchange and along biogeochemical pathways.
Interaction with my adviser, Isaac Held, and with other faculty members was what I benefited from most during my graduate studies at Princeton. Scientists at GFDL and in the AOS Program are unusually available and ready to engage in discussions with graduate students. The superb computational resources to which students in the AOS Program have access are unmatched.
I also enjoyed the intellectually stimulating atmosphere at Princeton at large. Princeton's graduate school is small but very diverse, so that it is easy to meet fellow graduate students not only in the science departments, but also in departments such as architecture, music, and literature.
To find an academic position and to get to know others working in my field, it was very helpful that scientists from other leading institutions visit Princeton regularly. After graduation, I worked for two years at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, in the new Center for Atmosphere-Ocean Science. Currently I am an Assistant Professor at the California Institute of Technology, in an environmental science and engineering program with a focus on the science of the global climate.