Staff Spotlight: Hannah Horowitz

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Hannah hiking at Hurricane RidgeHannah Horowitz is a postdoctoral research associate at JISAO funded by an NSF Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences postdoctoral research fellowship. She arrived at UW in April 2017. Hannah works with several professors in the department of atmospheric sciences to improve our understanding of aerosol-climate interactions and polar climate. Specifically, she is researching sea-salt aerosol particles produced from blowing saline snow on the surface of sea ice in polar regions in a coupled Earth system model to identify their impact on present-day climate and understand how this source may change under climate change. These particles can interact with solar radiation, clouds, and produce reactive halogens that affect greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere.

Hannah grew up in central Connecticut, in a small suburb called Wethersfield, which some say is the oldest town in the state. Her parents took her on her first camping trip when she was less than a year old, which began a lifelong love of spending time in nature. While at Wethersfield High School, Hannah started to see that the sciences were her academic passion and got involved in engineering and rocketry competitions, but she wasn’t quite sure what area of science she liked the most. Music performance was (and still is) her largest extracurricular passion (she was a marching band nerd). After graduating, Hannah set out for Harvard College, where she continued to be involved with band and orchestra, and thought she would become a biomedical engineer.

Instead, Hannah is very grateful that she found Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS). Through EPS, she participated in a joint Brazil–US field course in the Amazon rainforest and tried out a research cruise with the Sea Education Association. There she also discovered “atmospheric chemistry” (having never heard of it before) which merged her interests in chemistry, human health, and the environment. Hannah earned a PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard, with a focus on atmospheric chemistry modeling. Her PhD research on the toxic pollutant mercury spanned understanding its anthropogenic emissions, its atmospheric chemistry, and modeling the human impact on mercury in the ocean (where it can end up in fish that we eat!). Through the NSF GROW with USAID program, she also spent a few months at the CSIR in Pretoria, South Africa analyzing observations and modeling of aerosols from biomass burning and dust over the African continent. Hannah became motivated to study climate change more directly while still maintaining a connection to her atmospheric chemistry roots, which is how her current postdoc work at UW was born. Throughout her time in academia, in addition to research she is passionate about science outreach and women in STEM. You will soon be able to catch her presenting a polar planetarium show at the Pacific Science Center!

What do you find most challenging at your current position?

For me the hardest part about the transition from graduate student to postdoc was figuring out the best way to manage my time while juggling several of my own projects as well as advising undergraduates with their projects. In my current research, I’ve been learning to develop a climate model I hadn’t worked with before, which is also challenging but fun!

What has been your favorite project at JISAO?

Working on sea salt that is released from blowing saline snow on sea ice in polar regions! It combines aerosol-climate interactions, atmospheric chemistry, sea ice, and polar science and has been a good opportunity to work with lots of different people. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to be a mentor for the JISAO summer REU intern program.

What do you like most about your job?

The community of people I get to interact with, from undergraduates to faculty members and everyone in between.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I play tenor saxophone in Seattle’s all-women and non-binary brass band, the Filthy FemCorps.