Clarity In The Cloud: UA Faculty Member Pursues Answers Above

Feb. 14, 2019
Armin Sorooshian


Dr. Armin Sorooshian, a 2003 Honors College graduate now serving as a College of Engineering faculty member, is restless as he sits at his desk, early winter sunlight pushing through narrow gaps in the window blinds.

“How do you separate meteorology from particle-centered clouds? As a consequence, how can you understand the effect of these highly reflective structures on the climate? Particularly when clouds can’t be replicated in a lab – and change constantly in nature?”

He sits back and smiles with the resolve he’s carried forward from his undergraduate days to CalTech and now back at the University of Arizona.  All the time accumulating awards, acknowledgments, and grants for his research as well as teaching effectiveness. Among them is a $30 million, five-year NASA project focused on the North Atlantic.

“You need to get in them (clouds). Frequently. Gathering massive amounts of in-situ data to apply to models.  Flight time is the key variable, and we’ve been fortunate to be awarded grants to explore when and where clouds exist,” he comments.

Fascinated by aviation from an early age, Sorooshian pivoted his senior year from medical school to pursuing science. “The Honors College opened my eyes to opportunities I didn’t know existed, experiences far beyond my major. It’s a place where research is important and trying new things is not only possible but encouraged.”

Now a chemical and environmental engineering instructor and Honors College mentor, he emphasizes the importance of three factors. “I tell my students to proactively connect with good coaches. To learn to write confidently as well as speak effectively. And worry less about putting boxes around answers and more about pursuing bigger questions,” he concluded.

Cloud properties are, as the data continue to show, inextricably linked with climate change. Prediction starts with understanding, the mission Dr. Sorooshian continues to pursue with a level of passion that’s well at home in the Honors College. Never losing sight of the questions behind it all.

Hear more of Armin's story here as he is a 2018 da Vinci Fellows recipient.