Welcome to the Pratt Lab blog! Dr. Kerri Pratt is an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences and faculty associate of the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. We study the chemical interactions of atmospheric trace gases, particles, clouds, and snow, with a focus on the Polar Regions and wintertime environments. Our interdisciplinary research has relevance to climate change, air quality, and human health. As an analytical chemistry lab, we primarily apply novel mass spectrometry techniques to our field research. We invite you to follow our adventures in (and outside!) the lab!

Monday, December 10, 2018

CHEM 125-Snow on umich.edu homepage!

Our introductory chemistry lab course involving a semester-long authentic research experience in Arctic snow chemistry is featured today on the www.umich.edu homepage!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bringing a Piece of Home to Utqiagvik, AK


After snoozing my alarm for the fifth time, it is hard to believe that it is 8 am. Opening the blinds, I do a double take between my phone and the outside world. Am I sure it isn’t the middle of the night? With one streetlight illuminating the vicinity, I can barely make out the buildings next to us. It is pitch black outside. If we are lucky today, we might see a slight glimmer of sunlight around noon. With two cups of coffee in and more cups of tea waiting back at the duplex, Jun and I embark on one of three trips per day to the aptly named Cakeeater shed. With the pleasant humming of the instruments ringing in my head, there is one pertinent question that I must ask Jun, “What’s for dinner?”  
A glimmer of Sunlight at 11 AM 12/02/2018
Between deciphering error messages on the instruments and peeking outside for a glimpse of sunlight, food has brought us comfort during the darkest days (literally). During the downtime, I’m watching the food network as I hunch over a laptop analyzing our mass spectra from the previous day. I make mental notes of my favorite meals before strolling through the only large grocery store with fresh vegetables in Utqiagvik. Surprisingly, the Alaska Commercial Company is fully stocked with a bounty of options. You can even find exotic ingredients like bok choy and okra. The prices are vastly different than what we would expect from Ann Arbor, MI but by now we don’t blink twice at grabbing a $7 loaf of bread.
Returning to the duplex with hundreds of dollars in groceries, the difficult question arises again, what’s for dinner? There are about 8 charming restaurants in the area but nothing beats a home-cooked meal. We could make a hearty chili using the instant pot provided for us, or a taste of Thanksgiving with a green bean casserole, or pancakes and bacon because we are adults! Though our main concern is keeping our instruments functional, we have spent the downtime during the past 6 weeks perfecting our culinary skills. From cooking the perfect 135°F medium rare steak to watching bread rise, I now feel as comfortable cooking as I do tuning the aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ATOFMS). With 25 mph winds and more darkness ahead of us, we light a match to turn on the gas stove.    
A few of our home cooked meals
Today, I make something that reminds us both of home: wonton soup. Wrapping tiny spoonfuls of meat into a paper-thin wrapper brings back nostalgic childhood memories of waking up early Christmas morning to make wontons with my mom. With the darkness and wind whispering for us to stay indoors, this will always bring us comfort and warmth. With this meal, we bring a little bit of home to our new home in Utqiagvik.
A bowl of hearty, homemade wonton soup

- Jamy Lee, Pratt Lab Ph.D. Student part of the APUN study in Utqiagvik, AK

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Care package to Jamy & Jun!

Pratt Lab group members Jamy Lee and Jun Liu have been in Utqiagvik, Alaska since Oct. 28, and the sun went down for winter, with Polar Night beginning on Nov. 18. Jamy and Jun have been doing a great job keeping the ATOFMS going, while frequently dealing with getting stuck in snowbanks when going to/from the lab! It's been dark for quite a while, so the Pratt Lab decided to send them a care package! USPS flat rate shipments work to send mail to Utqiagvik, as long as you're patient! So, "3-day" shipping took 1 week, which is actually really fast for all the way to the North Slope of Alaska! They sent us the following photos of their excitement, with the message: "We received the package today! Thank you guys so much! These will keep us sane through the never-ending darkness!"
Jamy excited about Sriracha and socks! "Photos taken at 12:30 pm. Not much daylight as usual."
Jun enjoying his "Keep It Cool" socks!
Beautiful Northern Lights (Photo credit: Jun Liu)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holiday Party!

Pratt Lab holiday party joint with the Ault Lab - celebrating another successful semester!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Northern Lights!

Northern Lights over our lab on the Alaskan Arctic tundra (Photo credit: Jun Liu)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Wintertime sea spray aerosol!

Waves crashing at the snow-covered shore at Utqiagvik, AK - wintertime Arctic sea spray aerosol! Fall sea ice freeze-up is severely delayed in recent years, leading to storms eroding the coastline. A local noted sadly that the beach where she had played as a child had been washed away in recent years.

Aurora Borealis!

Beautiful Aurora Borealis in Utqiagvik, AK! A great reward for Pratt Lab post-doc and PhD student after a long day of Arctic fieldwork!