The McKinnon group

Interesting in joining the group? Scroll down for more information.

Karen McKinnon

Assistant Professor, Statistics and Institute of the Environment

Karen is an Assistant Professor at UCLA, joint between the Department of Statistics, the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Previously, she was an Applied Scientist at Descartes Labs in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and an Advanced Study Program post-doctoral fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research working with Clara Deser. She completed her PhD, advised by Peter Huybers, in 2015 in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department at Harvard University. Her research focuses on developing physical and statistical models for climate variability and change, with a particular interest in the weather-climate continuum.

Email: kmckinnon at ucla dot edu
Google Scholar

Suqin Duan

Postdoctoral Scholar

Suqin is a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA. She works with Prof. Karen McKinnon at UCLA and Dr. Isla Simpson at NCAR to understand the role of large scale atmospheric circulation and land surface in affecting temperature variability. She will apply a variety of statistical methods to predict the temperature distribution. Previously, she was a postdoctoral research associate in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University, working with Prof. Stephan Fueglistaler and Dr. Kirsten Findell. She completed her Ph.D. in 2019 working on water isotopes and tropical convection, advised by Prof. Jonathon Wright at Tsinghua University and Prof. David Romps at UC Berkeley.

Email: sqduan at ucla dot edu

Wenwen Kong

Postdoctoral Scholar

Wenwen is a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA. She received her Ph.D. in 2020 from the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked with John Chiang on seasonal transitions of the East Asian summer monsoon. Her research bridges observations, theory, and numerical modeling to understand the dynamics of regional climate, from the past to the future. At the IoES, she collaborates with Karen McKinnon at UCLA and Isla Simpson from NCAR to explore the role of the land surface in influencing temperature variability.

Email: wenwenkong at ucla dot edu

Sam Baugh

Fifth year graduate student, Statistics

Sam is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Statistics at UCLA. Prior to starting his PhD, he received his MS in Statistics from the University of Chicago advised by Michael Stein, where he worked on computational techniques for non-stationary spatial modeling. His current research is focused on statistical analysis of Argo temperature data in order to better understand how ocean heat content is changing in response to anthropogenic global warming.

Email: samuelbaugh at ucla dot edu

Nathan Hwangbo

Second year graduate student, Statistics

Nathan is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Statistics at UCLA. His current research is focused on better understanding long-term climate variability, using tree ring data to develop Bayesian models for climate reconstruction before the widespread use of meteorological instruments.

Email: nhwangbo at ucla dot edu

Kristen Fukunaga

Graduated senior, Mathematics

Kristen is a recent graduate of UCLA with a B.S. in Mathematics. She is interested in exploring the applications of statistics in environmental science, and her current research is focused on understanding changes in summertime temperature variability as global temperatures increase. In the fall, Kristen hopes to continue her studies and attend a master’s program in statistics.

Email: kristenfukunaga at gmail dot com


Dhruv Chakraborty, Computational Mathematics BS (2021). Now a Product Scientist at
Avery Robinson, Statistics BS (2021). Now at Silicon Valley Bank.
Stephanie Doe, Applied Mathematics BS (2021). Now a Data Scientist at MOBE.
Russell Horowitz, IoES Master's (2021). Now a Post-Masters Research Assistant at the Joint Global Change Research Institute.
Chris Reed, IoES BS (2020). Now a Data Analyst at wikiHow.
Pete Jourgensen, Computer Science Master's degree (2019). Now a Data Scientist at Deep 6 AI.

Prospective undergraduate students

Undergraduates are an important part of the McKinnon group. In most cases, undergraduate researchers work in a group of 2-3 on a self-contained project advised by myself and a senior PhD student or post-doc. In general, undergraduates who want to join the group should have experience coding (python preferred), an ability to commit to research for at least one academic year, and a desire to learn how to perform independent research. If this sounds like you, and you are excited to work on problems in climate science and/or related statistical methods, please email me with a short statement explaining your interests and background, as well as your CV. If I do not have open positions at the time of your email, I will get in touch when a position becomes available.

Prospective graduate students

Applications for the 2022-2023 academic year have closed. In general, I can admit students through the Department of Statistics, the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Your experience doing research in my group will be the same regardless of which program you apply to; however, the course requirements and funding structures are different. Please explore the websites of the different programs to figure out what seems to meet your needs best, and get in touch with the academic administrators if you have further questions about the logistics and requirements of each program.

If you decide to apply to one of the above programs to work with me, feel free to reach out by email to give me a heads up that you've applied. Note that I find it most equitable, efficient, and helpful to chat with prospective students once applications have been submitted. If the application fee is an undue burden, please do get in touch with the relevant department about a waiver. This will not affect how your application is assessed.

Prospective post-docs

I will be formally advertising for post-doc positions in the near future, funded by the Packard Fellowship. Have a cool idea that you want to work on, related to the research in the group? Please drop me an email saying hi, and telling me about it.

In addition, be in touch if you are interested in applying to a post-doctoral fellowship to work together. Some potential funding sources for post-docs are the NOAA Global Change post-doc, the various NSF post-docs, the McDonnell Foundation post-doc, and the Schmidt Science Fellows. In addition, the University of California system supports the President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program for female and minority PhD recipients.