Published: May 2, 2018

CIRES’ Chu research group poses with CU Boulder emblems during LIDAR deployment.
CIRES’ Chu research group poses with CU Boulder emblems during LIDAR deployment in Antarctica.

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Xinzhao Chu
Professor, Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences
CU Boulder

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University of Colorado Boulder Smead Aerospace professor Xinzhao Chu is seeking PhD students to join her LIDAR research team at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

CU Boulder is home to a vibrant community of scientists and engineers and houses some of the world’s most renowned environmental science institutes and facilities.

Scientists at CIRES explore advanced spectroscopy principles, develop new LIDAR technologies, study the fundamental physical and chemical processes that govern the whole atmosphere, and make new discoveries in the atmosphere-space sciences.

CIRES is recruiting PhD students in:

  • laser spectroscopy, optics and photonics
  • atmospheric and space physics
  • electrical and aerospace engineering

Current research projects:

  • exploration of space-atmosphere interactions with LIDAR in Antarctica
  • Na and Fe Doppler LIDAR observations of the mid-latitude atmosphere
  • collaborative research of LIDAR with rocket at Wallops Island
  • measurements of new metal species in space with laser spectroscopy

Chu has led several teams to Antarctica, including during the current 2017-2018 academic year, when her group successfully installed a new Na Doppler LIDAR to collocate with an Fe Boltzmann LIDAR at the Arrival Heights Lidar Observatory near McMurdo, Antarctica.

Simultaneous Na and Fe LIDAR observations have been made since mid-January 2018. The Fe Boltzmann LIDAR was deployed during a previous trip she led in 2010 with students Zhibin Yu, John A. Smith, and Weichun Fong.

Yu subsequently became the first winter-over LIDAR student at McMurdo, and he also became the first grantee to winter-over in Antarctica in 23 years.

Including Yu, the McMurdo LIDAR campaign has now featured eight CU Boulder aerospace graduate students who have wintered-over Antarctica and collected tons of invaluable data.

Both LIDAR projects were funded by the National Science Foundation through the the United States Antarctic Programs (USAP), but are housed in the Antarctica New Zealand (AntNZ) building at Arrival Heights. The CU LIDAR team received support from both McMurdo Station (run by USAP) and Scott Base (run by AntNZ).

International scientists at the Arrival Heights Observatory in Antarctica

Chu and a team of International scientists at the Arrival Heights Observatory in Antarctica

Many new science discoveries and breakthroughs have resulted from the data, opening a new door to observe and understand the Earth’s space-atmosphere interaction region.

So far, the McMurdo LIDAR projects have led to four PhD degrees: Zhibin Yu, John A. Smith, Weichun Fong, and Cao Chen, and two MS degrees: Brendan Roberts and Ian Barry.

Furthermore, Cao Chen, Zhibin Yu, and Weichun Fong earned first place prizes in 2012, 2013, and 2015, respectively, in the students' poster competitions at the CEDAR workshop hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

A new era of LIDAR observations has just begun, and the CU Boulder LIDAR team members and their collaborators are working hard to collect simultaneous Na and Fe LIDAR data and make new discoveries via data analysis and numerical modeling.