Current Lab Members

Graduate Students

Jake Weber

Minneapolis, Minnesota

BS: Chemistry & Biology

Harvey Mudd College (2022)

SIO: Fall 2022 

Marine chemistry PhD student 

Jake's primary research interests are focused on sea spray aerosol and their potential to impact human health. 


Maile Heyer

Oahu, Hawai'i 

BS: Microbiology 

UCSD  (2022)

SIO: Fall 2022 

Marine Biology PhD student

Maile's research broadly seeks to classify microbial communities and how they influence ecological systems. She will combine culture independent and dependent methods to simplify the dynamics within microbial communities so they can be manipulated and applied to today’s issues. This work will be completed under the guidance of the Prather and Zeigler labs at SIO.


Alexia Moore

Sacramento, CA

BS: Chemistry

 Howard University (2018)

Chemistry: Fall 2018 

Atmospheric & Analytical Chemistry PhD candidate  

Alexia focuses on using Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometry to detect Volatile Organic Compounds emitted from the ocean and monitor their role in secondary aerosol formation. She has received the NSF GRFP and UCOP-HBCU fellowships.


Raymond Leibensperger III

Denver area, Colorado

BS: Applied Physics in Marine Science 

University of Miami (2020)

SIO: Fall 2020

Climate Sciences PhD candidate 

Raymond's research focus is the transmission of particles from the sea surface into aerosols via bubble formation and bursting.  


Benjamin Rico

Orange County, CA

BS: Biochemistry & Cell Biology 

UCSD (2020) 

Chemistry: Fall 2020 

Atmospheric & Analytical Chemistry PhD student

Since joining the group, Ben has been working to develop portable, low-cost chemical ionization mass spectrometers for online detection of volatile organic compounds. 


Ke'La Kimble

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

BS: Chemistry ACS 

Xavier University of Louisiana (2019)

Chemistry: Fall 2019 

Atmospheric & Analytical Chemistry PhD candidate  

Here at UCSD, Ke'La studies changes in chemical composition of sea-spray aerosols using custom aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometers. She is a fellowship recipient  of the NSF GRFP, UCOP-HBCU, Sloan, & UCSD and serves as a member of the External Advisory Committee for the UC-ACS Bridge Program. 


Twitter: @kelakimble

Christopher Frobenius

Orange County, CA

BS: Chemistry

UCSD (2022)

Chemistry: Winter 2023 

Chemistry Master's student

Chris joined as a Lab Tech performing field work to investigate potential human health effects attributable to sea spray aerosols occurring in polluted environments. He is now a graduate student pursuing a M.S. in chemistry with a research project utilizing mass spectrometry under the guidance of Prof. Skip Pomeroy and Prof. Prather. 


Justin Hamlin

Iowa City, Iowa

BA: Chemistry

University of Iowa (2017)

Chemistry: Fall 2022 

Atmospheric & Analytical Chemistry PhD student 

Following graduation, Justin served in the US Army as a Chemical Officer where he led a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Response Team. He left the military in 2022 to pursue his PhD at UCSD where he studies biogenic volatile organic compounds and how they impact new particle formation in marine environments.


Julia Niehoff 

Mendham, New Jersey

BS: Environmental Chem

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (2023)

SIO: Fall 2023

Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry PhD student

Julia's interests are in carbon cycling and public policy. 


Jena Herbst

Corona, CA

BS: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology 

University of California, Irvine (2022)

SIO: Fall 2023 

Marine Chemistry PhD student

Jena was a CAICE SURP student in the Prather Lab in 2022 where she studied the chemical characterization of SOARS using TD-GCMS. 



El Masri

Houston, Texas

BA: Chemistry + Political Science 

Claremont McKenna College (2022)  

Chemistry: Fall 2022 

Atmospheric and Analytical Chemistry PhD student

Leila is interested in exploring the oxidation reactions of the environment through radical chemistry. She hopes to investigate the role of seaweed and other marine species' emissions via online chemical ionization mass spectrometry to elucidate their contribution to net global VOC emissions.  


Senior Personnel and Postdocs

Chris Lee, PhD - CAICE Managing director 

Chris is the Managing Director of NSF funded Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) with interests in understanding the role of atmospheric aging and marine-derived enzymes on the chemistry of sea spray aerosols. He joined the Prather Group in 2011 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. 


Charbel received his Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2022 and a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the Lebanese American University in 2018. He joined CAICE in 2022 as a postdoctoral scholar working under Prof. Kimberley A. Prather. Charbel's research aims to improve our understanding of the physical mechanisms of SSA generation and their role in the ejection of microbes and microplastics in the marine environment. 

 Twitter: @charbelEharb 



Monica Castrejón 

Prather Group Assistant


Joseph Mayer 

Principal Lab Mechanician 


Greg Sandstrom