3 Questions with PhD Candidate Ben Sumlin

Ben Sumlin earned his bachelor's degree in Physics and master's degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Nevada, where he focused on novel instrumentation for quantifying brown and black carbon. At WashU, he is a member of the Aerosol Impacts & Research (AIR) Lab.

Ben Sumlin
Ben Sumlin

What most excites you about your research? My research is novel, it’s difficult, and I’m the only one in the world doing it. I work on a very specific yet important area that has implications on global climate but is completely understudied. However, despite how focused my specific projects are, I’ve picked up a broad skillset that can be applied to many areas of science and engineering in a way that won’t narrow my prospects after graduation.

Why WashU? I’ve been doing aerosol physics for most of my academic career. Coming to WashU was the obvious choice, given their intense focus on all aspects of aerosol science and technology, from fundamental physics to nanomaterials and other applications. The collaborative culture here surprised me. Every professor and student I’ve met was excited to collaborate, or just to learn more about what everyone else was doing. Since coming to WashU, I’ve been exposed to a variety of post-graduation options where I’ll get to do what I love in a variety of environments, such as national labs; federal science agencies like the EPA, NASA, DOE, DOD, and NSF; several industrial companies that still contribute to academic research; and of course, actual academia is still very much an attractive option.

What do you think about living in St. Louis, Missouri? I love it! I’ve heard lots of complaints that there’s nothing to do in St. Louis, but that couldn’t be more wrong. All the free cultural events and venues like the zoo and museums are always a great option. If you’re into craft beer, I think St. Louis is second only to Portland, Oregon in terms of diversity and quality. Also, the food here is ridiculously good.