Dr. Michael Waring Integrates Indoor Air Pollution Research with STEM Education
April 15, 2011 Dr. Michael Waring, assistant professor of civil architectural and environmental engineering, is investigating indoor air quality to improve human health while integrating it with his career goal of increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in the community. Waring will take on the unique approach of integrating the air quality research with a curriculum beginning this month.
The project will launch with Waring leading a team of undergraduate, graduate and high school students in research that will examine Secondary Organic Aerosol (SOA) formation. SOA is airborne particulate matter that forms indoors from ozone reactions with terpenoids, or organic chemicals, emitted by consumer products. The team will analyze how size-distributions of SOA evolve in time over a range of indoor environmental parameters that include the building air exchange rate, temperature and humidity, as well as the magnitude of SOA exposure for Americans. Exposure to particulate matter has been linked to asthma and other inhalation issues.
“The link between energy use and indoor air quality is a pressing problem in developing high performance buildings and we want to be sure we’re not impacting the health of building occupants negatively as we reduce our energy use,” said Waring.
Waring will lead the investigation of SOA formation by using small chamber systems in Drexel’s Environmental Engineering Laboratory and with real field studies in the future. By exploring the chemistry and physics of indoor particle formation, the team will be able to develop a model that will predict SOA formation. The model will be applied to calculate the SOA exposure for people under varying conditions in indoor environments. In Waring’s classes, students will assess air pollution control methods in their own homes and help build a comprehensive online resource for indoor air quality education and research. Outreach activities will involve Waring’s team of students delivering the indoor air-related projects into community schools to K-12 students to encourage STEM education.
The research is funded by Waring’s five-year CAREER award from the National Science Foundation of $402,498. Waring’s work will yield scientific data that will facilitate manufacturing and policy decisions that could result in safer consumer products and recommendations for product use.