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Hendrix Professor Awarded National Science Foundation Grant for Atmospheric Chemistry

CONWAY, Ark. (May 2, 2018) – A Hendrix chemistry professor and alumna of the College has received a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further develop atmospheric chemistry research at Hendrix. 

Courtney Hatch 2015Dr. Courtney Hatch ’00, associate professor of chemistry at Hendrix and chair of the Environmental Studies Program, submitted a funding request for “RUI: Bulk water adsorption and aerosol cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation of insoluble aerosol: Toward experimental closure and accurate model parameters.” The reviewers with the NSF found the proposal to be “a very strong and compelling research project” and recommended it for full funding of the amount requested in Hatch’s grant application, with work to begin this summer.

The funded work aims to study of the effect of particles in the atmosphere on climate, an area of research that seeks to learn to what degree the formation of clouds may offset the warming effect of greenhouse gases. Hatch says gaining more information about how natural aerosols take up water and grow to become cloud droplets can inform possible courses of action concerning climate change, improve the accuracy of current climate models, and enhance the fundamental understanding of surface chemistry on atmospheric particles. 

“Scientists have a really high level of understanding of how greenhouse gases have a warming effect,” she said. “But aerosols have a cooling effect, and what we really don’t know much about is how short-lived aerosols influence climate. It’s important because if we want to be able to make accurate predictions, we need to know what affects the warming and the cooling of the atmosphere.”

The NSF grant will include funding for four new instruments for the Chemistry Department, including a cloud condensation nuclei counter for use in measuring particle growth under supersaturated water vapor conditions. Other equipment to be purchased through the grant will increase capabilities for measuring particle size, density, porosity, and surface area.

The grant also will fund undergraduate summer research and support travel for students to explore careers in the geosciences, further extending an opportunity that began with funding from Hatch’s three-year Morris and Ann Henry Odyssey Professorship, which she received in 2013. 

Hatch noted that several current and former students made substantial contributions toward securing this NSF funding through their undergraduate research, including Morgan Conine ’11, Annie Greenaway ’12, Josh Harris ’12, Gracie Kloss ’12, Matthew Christie ’15, Rebecca Meredith ’15, Abby Gatmaitan ’17, Ryan Tumminello ’18, Megan Cassingham ’19, and Henry Dana ’19. 

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between experiment and theory, to have more accurate measurements of cloud activation and climate predictions. We need to know, are our theories agreeing with our experiment?” she said. “This work will facilitate answering this question while providing hands-on experience for undergraduates in the laboratory.” 

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit