Trying to study this thing on the nanoscale is really trying to help the world on a global scale.

Tim Raymond '97 asks very big questions by looking at very small objects.

As an associate professor of chemical engineering, he studies aerosols, tiny particles suspended in the air. These aerosols aren't like the droplets emitted from a hairspray can. The ones Raymond works on are "much smaller than dust," too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Some aerosols form naturally from sea spray, for example, while others are produced by human activities, like tailpipe emissions. Regardless of their source, these particles have powerful effects on Earth's climate.

Clouds form when water vapor condenses on particles suspended in the air. The size, shape and chemical composition of the particles all affect how water droplets form. Because clouds are one of the driving forces of climate, Raymond's research on how aerosols interact with water vapor and what sorts of clouds form under which conditions has huge implications for scientists who model climate change.

"Trying to study this thing on the nanoscale is really trying to help the world on a global scale," he says.

Pharmaceutical companies also need to know how aerosols, in the form of inhalable drugs, will interact with water vapor in the respiratory tract. Larger particles might be caught in the mouth and nose, while smaller particles could travel all the way to the smallest section of the lungs. Knowing how a given aerosol will behave will help companies target drugs to desired locations in the body.

Raymond has been awarded a five-year, $520,000 National Science Foundation Career Award to study aerosol-water interactions in the atmosphere. With the money, Raymond has purchased new equipment that has greatly expanded his research capabilities, including one instrument that allows him to create clouds in the laboratory. Only a few dozen such machines exist worldwide.

Both his parents, two uncles and a cousin attended Bucknell and another cousin, Sandy Raymond, is the Academic Scheduling Coordinator, so Raymond has deep ties to the University. He grew up attending Bucknell football, soccer and basketball games with his father, Robert H. Raymond Jr. '60. It was no surprise that Tim chose the University for his undergraduate education. Once he got here, he left only long enough to complete a Ph.D. at Carnegie-Mellon University.

"I wanted to come back to a place like Bucknell where I could spend a large majority of my time teaching and interacting with the students, but still be able to do high-quality research," he says. "There are not many schools that offer the opportunities that we do in engineering."

Posted Sept. 9, 2009