About Kim

Kimberly Prather is an American scientist who is an Atmospheric Chemist, Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, and a Distinguished Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego. Her work focuses on how human emissions are influencing the atmosphere, climate, and human health. In 2020, she was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and in 2019, she was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She is an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Prather is working to understand the health and environmental impacts of ocean-derived pollutants and toxins in run-off and and outfalls. Her work focuses on studying the ocean-to-atmosphere transfer and subsequent atmospheric transport and extent of human exposure. Her research specifically focuses on measurements of the concentration of particles that are small enough to be inhaled deep into our lungs and impact human health. This represents a new area of research that can be used for alerting the public and predicting days with heavier airborne pollution and bacterial loads, especially during storm events that wash contaminants into the coastal ocean where they can become airborne. She is working collaboratively with a team of interdisciplinary scientists including in the Health Sciences to study the potential health effects of these ocean-derived natural microbes and anthropogenic pollutants under changing climate conditions.

Prather's research focuses on understanding the impact of atmospheric aerosols on clouds, human health, and climate. Early in her career, she developed a technique known as aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometry that is widely used in atmospheric field studies around the world to determine the origin and chemistry of aerosols.  A major focus of her research involves understanding how aerosols modify cloud properties and precipitation processes.

Born in Santa Rosa, CA, Prather received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. She was a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley working with Nobel Laureate, Yuan T. Lee.  She became an Assistant Professor at University of California, Riverside and then moved to University of California, San Diego as a professor in 2001.

Prather has authored over 200 articles in peer reviewed scientific journals. She is the recipient of the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award, American Chemical Society Analytical Chemistry Arthur F. Findeis Award, the Kenneth Whitby Award, the GAeF Smoluchowski Award, the National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award, the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Award, the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the San Diego section of the American Chemical Society. Prather is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Geophysical Union.

Research Interests:
  • Aerosol-cloud interactions
  • Air-sea exchange
  • Climate change
  • Development of analytical tools for particle analysis
  • Education and outreach activities for the public
  • Heterogeneous chemistry
  • Impacts of long range transport on regional climate in California (CalWater)
  • Improvement of weather forecast models
  • Marine biology impacts on clouds and climate
  • On-line analysis of aerosol mixing state
  • Radiative forcing of aerosols
  • B.S., University of California, Davis
  • Ph.D., University of California, Davis