1.84J | Fall 2013 | Graduate
Atmospheric Chemistry



The final project entails a detailed study of a current topic in atmospheric chemistry that is of interest of you. This topic should be related to atmospheric chemistry in a general sense (i.e., it should not be a purely meteorology or radiative transfer project), though it does not have to explicitly tie into something we explicitly covered in class. The project should go beyond a simple literature review, and typically involve modeling efforts or a synthesis / reanalysis of existing data, in order to provide new insight into an atmospheric chemical process or system. The work should be sufficiently novel and extensive that it could provide the foundation for a peer-reviewed paper or technical report.


Proposal 10
Technical / Scientific content 45
Paper (readability, etc) 20
Presentation 25


At the proposal stage, the primary objective is to pose a well-defined, clearly-stated question you plan to answer, or hypothesis you plan to test. I’ve spoken to some of you about potential questions, but here are three major guidelines in formulating these: (1) it should be reasonably focused, since overly broad questions (“What is the atmospheric chemistry of compound X?”) cannot define a single project; (2) addressing it should go beyond a literature review and require some analysis / calculations and (3) it should be answerable in the time allotted (1 month).

In addition to this question, the proposal should contain:

Introduction: Why this topic is important.

Background: What we do / don’t know about the topic. A full literature review isn’t necessary at this stage, but key papers should be cited.

Methods: How you plan to address the question. (Be as specific as possible.)

Length should be 1–3 pages, including references and any figures. I’ll provide feedback afterwards, but I’m also happy to discuss the project with you in advance of the proposal deadline.


No page requirement, but suggested length is 10–15 pages of text, double-spaced (plus figures, captions, and references).

Suggested Sections (variations and subsections are fine; this is a list of key elements I will be looking for):

Abstract: A concise paragraph outlining the entire project (intro through conclusions).

Introduction / Background: Introduction to your project, assuming the reader has a background in atmospheric chemistry but not in your specific project topic. By the end of this section the reader should have a clear idea of (a) why the general topic and your specific project is important, (b) what relevant work has been done in the past (a full literature review), and (c) what you set out to do, in terms of the project’s specific aims as well as general approaches.

Methods: Description of what the project entailed. Go into the gory details here about your methodology; the goal is for the reader to know exactly what you did. If you use a technique described in the literature, refer to the relevant paper but briefly summarize the key points.

Results / Discussion (can be separate sections): This is the most important part of the paper—what was learned and what it means. Describe both the raw outputs of your work (results) and put them into the context of the goals of the project (discussion).

Conclusions: Quick summary of the project; implications of this work (big-picture); suggested areas for future work.

References: Full bibliography.


Your talk should cover the above elements—motivation, background, methods, results / implications. You will have only 15–20 minutes to present so there won’t be time to go into too many specifics—the focus should be clarity and conveying a broad understanding of the project, not on hitting every last detail. Slides should be relatively light on sentences, heavy on figures / reactions / equations / etc. (the class presentations done so far have been quite good in this regard). After the presentation there will be a few minutes for questions; having more detailed “extra slides” at the ready is always a good idea.

If you have any questions about any aspect of the project, please ask!

Learning Resource Types
notes Lecture Notes
assignment Problem Sets
co_present Instructor Insights