2021

February


Robinson interviewed on Shared Air
Shared Air

MechE Head Allen Robinson was a guest on Shared Air, a podcast created by MechE’s Albert Presto and Rose Eilenberg. The episode, named “Shale gas, revisited,” explores hydraulic fracking, methane leakage, aging infrastructure, air quality, and more.


January


Jen and Sullivan quoted on wildfires
Salon

ChemE’s Coty Jen and MechE’s Ryan Sullivan were quoted in Salon about their experiences with wildfires in California. “I remember waking up to a smoke-filled apartment as I had left the window open in my bedroom at night,” Sullivan wrote to Salon about his first month of his Ph.D. program at the University of California - San Diego. A large wildfire had broken out in the San Diego area. Jen told Salon that she remembered the northern California wildfires of October/November 2017 while she lived in Berkeley, California, which she described as “a pretty surreal experience. Everywhere smelled like smoke and it continued for days,” she recalled. “Since I was researching wildfire smoke and how it impacts air pollution, I started collecting measurements of the smoke from our lab.”


2020


September


Robinson published on EPA
Lancaster Online

MechE Head Allen Robinson published an op-ed on Lancaster Online about the EPA’s denial of science and the effect it has on Pennsylvanian methane pollution. “This denial of science and failure of leadership at the federal level make strong, swift and decisive action on methane rules at the state level all the more imperative,” Robinson and his co-author wrote.


August


Presto on reduced pollution
WESA

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted by WESA in an article discussing the impact of less traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presto found that less driving led to decreases in carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, as well as reduced fine particulate matter, small particles that can lead to serious health problems. While this research specifically addresses the effects of life during the pandemic, Presto also says that “this is what a potential future atmosphere could look like” in the Pittsburgh region if half of all vehicles became electric cars.


Presto quoted on pollution
WESA

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted in WESA on pollution during the coronavirus pandemic. The original research was done by Presto and MechE Head Allen Robinson. In a recent paper, a Carnegie Mellon University research group documented a drop in air pollutants. Their work showed that less driving meant lower concentrations of emissions such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Presto said more surprising was the decrease in fine particulate matter, which are really small particles that can cause big health problems. “That was the same whether we were in a high-traffic place or a low-traffic place,” he said.


July


Donahue quoted on COVID-19 spread
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh

ChemE/EPP’s Neil Donahue was quoted in KDKA on coronavirus spread. There is evidence for inside transmission. “Those particles, they can float around literally for days,” says Donahue. “The more fresh air you get in a room, the more diluted those (virus) particles are going to be.”


June


Sullivan paper named among RSC Best of 2019
Royal Society of Chemistry

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.


Adams co-authors article arguing EPA stance on air pollution
New England Journal of Medicine

EPP Head Peter Adams is one of the co-authors on a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine that argues against the EPA’s current stance on air pollution standards for fine particulate matter. The paper, written jointly by members of the disbanded EPA scientific review panel for these standards, argues that by circumventing the regulation that requires pollution standards to be overseen by a scientific review panel, the EPA is opening the public up to unnecessary risk of death from air pollution. “Political appointees at the EPA are saying that the United States does not need tighter air pollution standards for fine particulate matter, which is known to cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year,” says Adams. “The law requires a scientific review to determine if the standards need to be tighter, but EPA chose to short-circuit that process by disbanding the normal review panel. Members of the disbanded panel chose to do the review anyway, and this paper declares publicly our conclusion that the current standards are insufficient to protect public health.”


May


Donahue featured on smog
Multiple Sources

ChemE/EPP’s Neil Donahue was featured on a Nature podcast and in C&EN on atmospheric smog. In densely populated cities, concentrations of relatively large airborne particles can be more than 100 times as high as those in rural locations. To sort out this atmospheric puzzle, a team including Donahue conducted a series of experiments in a controlled-atmosphere chamber. The team tested components of big-city air pollution and probed the gases’ behavior over a range of temperatures.


April


Presto quoted on Pittsburgh air pollution
York Dispatch

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted in the York Dispatch on the decrease in Pittsburgh air pollution after the coronavirus shutdown. Presto said he first noticed an “obvious change” to air quality levels, specifically for particulate matter, after March 13, when Gov. Tom Wolf first ordered a shutdown of all nonessential businesses and closed schools throughout Pennsylvania. With fewer vehicles on the road, scientists have taken note of the almost-overnight effects of lower air pollution. “There's a definite difference,” Presto said of the changes in air quality in March. “It was like a light switch almost.”