Will Cantrell
Department of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences Program
Michigan Technological University
Houghton MI USA

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Why do clouds form when and where they do? Why do some clouds rain and some do not?

Understanding questions like those is the primary motivation for my research. As a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I spent a lot of time thinking about and investigating the properties of aerosol particles that make them more likely to serve as the seeds for cloud droplets. (The pictures above are all from that time.) Most of my research was in the field. I took an instrument which I helped to develop and deployed it in various spots around the world, measuring aerosol particles, subjecting them to varying levels of water vapor concentration, then measuring again to see which ones became cloud droplets. Back then, I swore that I would never do research in ice. Too complicated!

As a faculty member at Michigan Tech, I've spent most of my time thinking about ice. I'm trying to understand what makes certain substances more likely to cause freezing, which has implications for weather, climate, and aviation, to name only three. I've also lately come back to issues involving liquid water clouds, as the Pi Chamber has opened up some exciting avenues of inquiry.