Meet Steffi: Chemical characterization of SOA and precursors

Hello everyone!

My name is Stefanie Hildmann (Steffi) and I am currently working at the Johannes Gutenberg – University of Mainz (Germany). I am working as a PhD student in the group ‘Organic Trace Analysis’ of Prof. Thorsten Hoffmann in the Department of Chemistry. Prior, I completed my Bachelor and Master of Science in Chemistry at JGU Mainz. I did the corresponding theses at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Prof. Gerhard Lammel’s group, where we worked on organic pollutants and their exposure.

In my Master’s degree, I specialized in Analytical Chemistry. So, one day I was sitting in Prof. Hoffmann’s lecture and saw a video in which a drone took off from the ground and flew along an orangish-white striped tower. Far and wide, nothing could be seen but the seemingly endless expanses of trees in the Amazon rainforest. The video impressed me so deeply that this was the moment when a little dream began to emerge in me. Two years later I took over the research, within the framework of the ATTO project, in Prof. Hoffmann’s group. Finally, in April 2022 my dream came true and I climbed the ATTO tower for the first time. In reality, it was even more impressive than in the video!

Steffi on the ATTO tall tower.
© Stefanie Hildmann / Uni Mainz

In my PhD, I want to characterize secondary organic aerosols (SOA) chemically at the molecular level. To do this, I am taking filter samples at different heights of the ATTO tower in different seasons and at different times. In addition, I am investigating biogenic volatile components (BVOCs), as precursors of aerosols. So, I walk through the rainforest with absorption tubes taking samples of interesting objects, such as termite or ant nests. I take the samples back to Mainz and study them with high-resolution mass spectrometry. We use gas and liquid chromatography as separation techniques.

My highlight on ATTO so far was the day I set up my sampling setup at 320 meters with the support of Sebastian and Feliciano (hardly anything at ATTO works alone!). After it had rained all day and we were finally able to climb the tower. It was already so late that we stayed until sunset. This one was breathtakingly beautiful!

I am happy and grateful to be part of this wonderful team and look forward to another exciting time!

© Stefanie Hildmann / Uni Mainz