Sub-group leader at ETH Zurich, soon-to-be assistant professor, University of British Columbia

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Be passionate, be humble, be kind, be generous.

Nadine Borduas-Dedekind, PhD

What do you do?

I am an atmospheric chemist. I study the molecules and particles that we breath and that make clouds. One of the largest uncertainties in our ability to predict future rising temperatures in our changing climate is how and where clouds form. So, my research group is interested in the interaction between organic aerosols and cloud formation in order to better constrain the uncertainty on climate forcing projections. We are chemists studying the impact of sunlight on organic aerosols and subsequently on cloud condensation nuclei and on ice particles.

Specifically, my group works on atmospheric ice nucleation projects in the context of uncertain aerosol-ice cloud interactions. Indeed, 50% of precipitation and 20% of cloud cover originates from mixed phase clouds where the supercooled liquid to ice ratio is notoriously difficult to predict. Our goal is to bring a chemical mechanistic expertise and perspective to atmospheric ice nucleation. We are also interested in atmospheric oxidants, such as OH radicals, singlet oxygen and hydrogen peroxides and quantifying their role in aerosols aging and that impact on cloud formation, including ice nucleation.

I’m also interested in science communication, science outreach and learning to be a supportive mentor.

Why did you choose this field?

I love to ask “why”. My friends and family will attest that I may even get annoying with all my “why”s. Evidently, asking lots of questions and loving to learn brought me to science. I had two particularly excellent science and chemistry teachers in high school and college whom helped me guide my interest towards studying chemistry at the university level. During my undergrad, I realized I loved making new molecules. The success of confirming the molecular structure of the little white powder or clear liquid I had made was quite exciting. I also love to spend time outdoors and so choosing environmental chemistry was an excellent choice. Environmental chemistry, and specifically atmospheric chemistry, is such a collaborative and impactful area of research and I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute to this field. I also worked in pharmaceutical industries and at a consulting company, but found that academia was the most stimulating environment for me to work in.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I don’t have a specific achievement, but rather that it is possible to combine all my interests. For example, I was recently involved in a research project where we went skiing to collect snow samples. It was so much fun and we learned ice/water cloud fractions with this dataset.

I would tell younger me that, simply nothing is impossible. I must just believe I can do it.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working with a team of highly talented and intelligent colleagues working on big picture problems like air quality and climate change. I love to learn and working with chemists, physicists, meteorologists, engineers, modelers and policy makers is a stimulating environment for learning and for impactful research. We don’t discover something scientifically new every day, but we certainly learn something new every day.

Best advice for next generation?

Persevere and surround yourself with supportive people. Be passionate, be humble, be kind, be generous. And finally, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

During my undergraduate studies I was a ski instructor at the local ski hill in Quebec.

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