The Air Over There: Isabella Dressel Takes Her Atmospheric Studies to Cambridge

January 16, 2024
Isabella Dressel

Isabella Dressel will pursue a master’s degree in chemistry next year at Churchill College, Cambridge. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Isabella Dressel will continue studying the atmosphere, but now she will research it from England as a Churchill Scholar.

Dressel is a fourth-year at the University of Virginia with a self-designed interdisciplinary major in atmospheric and environmental science, chemistry and physics. She will pursue a master’s degree in chemistry next year at Churchill College, Cambridge, under the supervision of Alex Archibald, a professor in atmospheric chemistry modeling at the University of Cambridge.

“I plan to study interactions between biomass burning aerosols and climate in the North Atlantic region using airborne observations, satellite-derived emissions estimates and model simulations,” Dressel said.

Her scholarship in the U.K. will build on work she started at UVA.

“Since my first year, I have done research with Professor Sally Pusede [an atmospheric chemist], using daily satellite observations to study relationships between urban air pollution inequalities, air quality and meteorology,” Dressel said. “Last summer, I interned at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. … Spending a summer focused on a new topic showed me that I would benefit from exploring research more before starting a Ph.D. program.”

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Dressel determined Churchill was her best next step after speaking with Archibald.

“I’m excited to deeply explore a new research area, experience a new culture and work environment, and learn from the innovative research done in the Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group,” she said. “Archibald is an expert in chemistry-climate models, and the training I receive will provide me with excellent preparation for a Ph.D. program. 

“I am also looking forward to building lasting connections with the other students in my cohort.”

Dressel, from Clifton, is also a College Science Scholar and received a Goldwater Scholarship and an Astronaut Scholarship.

Robert E. Davis, director of undergraduate programs in UVA’s Department of Environmental Sciences, said Dressel is upbeat, pleasant and very well grounded.

“She took my graduate climatology class as a second-year student and already had the critical thinking and scientific writing skills of a graduate student,” Davis said. “Isabella is certainly one of the handful of best overall undergraduate students I have known in my roughly 35 years at UVA. The others have all gone on to become professors or accomplished research scientists.”

“Isabella is a role model for undergraduates who aspire to a career in research,” Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, said. “She is curious and engaged and she has a record demonstrating her willingness to do the foundational – and sometimes even tedious – learning required of a scientist. The Churchill is an incredible opportunity for pre-doctoral research in STEM, and Isabella will undoubtedly make the most of her time at Cambridge.”

The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States selected 16 Churchill Scholars in science, math and engineering for the 2024-25 academic year. The scholarship funds one year of master’s study at Churchill College, Cambridge, covering full tuition, a competitive stipend, travel costs and the opportunity to apply for a $4,000 special research grant.

Dressel is UVA’s sixth Churchill Scholar.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications