Conversations in Science Series
A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, April 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
LOCATION: Sonderegger Science Center (Click here for parking information)
1000 Edgewood College Drive Madison, Wisconsin

Professor Frank Keutch
Department of Chemistry

“Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Atmospheric Photochemistry”

The Conversations in Science series brings together UW-Madison science researchers and Dane County science teachers. Designed to stimulate discussion between scientists and science educators at all levels, these conversations connect high-, middle-, and elementary school classrooms with the University's cutting-edge research. Questions and ideas are freely exchanged between expert and an audience of K-12 educators.


Aerosols, microscopic particulate matter suspended in air, plays an important role in our atmosphere as it influences both air quality and climate. Aerosols can penetrate into lungs and thus have important health effects, such as asthma and cardio-respiratory disease. Aerosols influence climate as they scatter and absorb radiation and as they affect cloud properties.

A large fraction of aerosol corresponds to organic molecules originating from processing of gas-phase precursor molecules, such as compounds emitted by pine and oak trees. However, models often under-predict the amount of organic aerosol by an order of magnitude compared to observations. Research in the Keutsch Group is focusing on understanding chemical processes within the aerosol that are not included in current models but can impact the amount of aerosol formed and its optical properties.

This conversation will give an overview on the nature of atmospheric aerosols, their influence on human health and climate and give an example of chemical reactions within the aerosol that influence the properties and amount of aerosol formed.


Frank Keutsch is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at UW-Madison since 2005. He obtained his Diplom in Chemistry in 1997 from the Technische Universität München, his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 2001 from UC-Berkeley and spent 4 years as research associate at Harvard University.

Research in the Keutsch Group focuses understanding the oxidative processes of volatile organic compounds that produce tropospheric ozone and organic aerosol. Laboratory studies are combined with atmospheric field measurements in order to improve the understanding of chemical processes in the gas and aerosol phase and, as a result, improve chemical models of the atmosphere

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