Sebastian Eastham

Principal Research Scientist and Associate Director


Seb is part of the leadership team of the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment (LAE), acting as one of the lab’s Associate Directors. His research career began at Cambridge, where he worked on the environmental impact of expanding Heathrow Airport as part of his undergraduate degree. Seb completed a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering at MIT in 2015, followed by a two year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard in the Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group, supported jointly by the Harvard University Center for the Environment and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate and Global Change program. He joined LAE as a research scientist in 2017. In addition to his leadership role in LAE, Seb’s role expanded in 2022 when he became a principal research scientist in the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.


At LAE, Seb’s work is focused on understanding, quantifying, and mitigating the environmental impacts of anthropogenic emissions using computational models and aerospace assets. This includes the climate impacts of supersonic aviation, the atmospheric chemistry of aircraft emissions, possible unintended consequences of geoengineering, and the formation and effects of aircraft condensation trails (“contrails”).

Central to his work is the development and application of state-of-the-science computational models of the Earth system, ranging in scope from individual aircraft exhaust plumes to the global atmosphere. His work also leverages the growing stream of Earth observation data from aerospace assets, including using satellite observations during COVID lockdowns to understand the effect of emissions reduction on air quality, using aircraft plume intercept data to improve our understanding of contrail impacts, and applying machine learning techniques to geostationary satellite data to quantify US-wide contrail coverage. By merging these two approaches, Seb aims to develop models of the Earth system which leverage near real-time data streams to deliver novel capabilities in environmental impact assessment and mitigation.



  • Atmospheric modeling of combustion emissions, including chemistry and dynamics
  • Development and application of multi-scale computational models of the atmosphere
  • Integration of observational data to improve scientific understanding and model accuracy
  • Global environmental impact assessment of longer-lived emissions



Seb’s LAE publications are listed here.