Ryan Sullivan is a professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He is also a faculty member in the Centre for Atmospheric Particle Studies. Sullivan has a background in atmospheric and analytical chemistry, single-particle analysis, heterogeneous kinetics, and cloud nucleation research. His research interests include the development of improved aircraft-deployable analytical instrumentation to characterize individual particles in the atmosphere in real-time. These instruments are used to investigate the physicochemical properties of atmospheric particles emitted and produced from a variety of sources, the chemical processes they experience during atmospheric transport, and how these processes modify the ability of particles to nucleate both cloud droplets and ice crystals, thus altering cloud properties and the Earth’s climate. These research endeavors involve equal parts instrument development, laboratory experiments, and field measurements.

2111 Doherty Hall
Google Scholar
Ryan Sullivan
Sullivan Lab

Studying Atmospheric Particles Using Aerosol Optical Tweezers

Understanding Climate Change Through Clouds


2008 Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California, San Diego

2006 MS, Chemistry, University of California, San Diego

2002 BS, Chemistry, University of Toronto

Media mentions

CMU Engineering

Making environmental science accessible to all students

New Mechanical Engineering course dives into the connections between Earth’s water, air, land, and life.

National Science Foundation

Sullivan’s research on wildfires featured

MechE/Chemistry’s Ryan Sullivan’s research on wildfires and cloud formation was featured on the National Science Foundation’s The Discovery Files radio feature.

CMU Engineering

Wildfires, clouds, and climate change

As the frequency and size of wildfires increases worldwide, research shows how the chemical aging of particles emitted by these fires can lead to more extensive cloud formation and intense storm development in the atmosphere.

Carnegie Mellon University

Engineering faculty quoted on climate policy

ChemE/EPP’s Neil Donahue, EPP’s Valerie Karplus, CEE/EPP’s Destenie Nock, CEE/EPP’s Costa Samaras, MechE’s Ryan Sullivan, and the Scott Institute’s Anna Siefken were quoted on President Biden’s climate policy.


Jen and Sullivan quoted on wildfires

ChemE’s Coty Jen and MechE’s Ryan Sullivan were quoted in Salon about their experiences with wildfires in California.

CMU Engineering

Wildfires produce minerals that freeze clouds

Why do some biomass fuels create ice nucleating particles when they combust while others do not? Researchers at the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies make an unexpected discovery.

Shared Air Podcast

Jen and Sullivan quoted on coronavirus

ChemE’s Coty Jen and MechE’s Ryan Sullivan appeared on MechE’s Albert Presto’s podcast, Shared Air, on the role of masks in the coronavirus pandemic.

CMU Engineering

Engineering ways to keep doctors safe from COVID-19

When Allegheny Health Network and Magee Plastics needed help perfecting their simple intubation boxes, they turned to Carnegie Mellon engineers Ryan Sullivan and Coty Jen.

Royal Society of Chemistry

Sullivan paper named among RSC Best of 2019

MechE’s Ryan Sullivan and collaborators at the University of Washington had a research paper named among the Best Papers 2019 - Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

CMU Engineering

Engineering faculty win Carnegie Science Awards

Carmel Majidi and Ryan Sullivan have won Carnegie Science Awards from the Carnegie Science Center for their incredible contributions to science.

CMU Engineering

Evolution in the air

Two new studies show how aerosol optical tweezing can allow scientists to scrutinize the components of the atmosphere with new precision.

FutureTech Health

Sullivan on the FutureTech Health podcast

MechE’s Ryan Sullivan spoke on the FutureTech Health podcast, and discussed his focus in atmospheric chemistry to understand chemical reactions and transformations with pollutants and natural particles in the air.