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Distinguished Aerosol Scientist Examining Air and Water Quality, Toxicology

IMAGE: Shanhu Lee Research
The work of Associate Professor Dr. Shan-Hu Lee is placing Kent State at the forefront of research into the relationship between air and water quality, climate change and the resultant impact on health. 

The atmospheric chemist’s research focuses on aerosol particles, especially nano particles, with respect to air and water quality and toxicology.  “Understanding aerosol particles is very important because of breathing,” says Lee.  They stay in membranes a long time, and what goes to the lungs can be very toxic to children and the elderly,” she says.  “The study of aerosols is critical to understanding air and water quality and pollution as relative to climate change,” says Lee.

Both categories of her research have received significant funding, more than $1.7 million in recent years from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.    

Lee’s present studies are about how aerosol particles develop and how toxins interact with water.  “The goal of our research is to better understand the formation of aerosols in the lower portion of the Earth’s atmosphere,” explains Lee.  “We are trying to answer questions about how atmospheric nucleation, or condensation, takes place in the presence of both anthropogenic pollutants, which come from car and power-plant emissions, and biogenic chemical species, which come from forest emissions,” she says.  Laboratory analysis is examining aerosol nucleation by sulfuric acid in the presence of ammonia and organic compounds.  Simultaneous, long-term, field measurements of aerosol size distributions and sulfuric acid are being performed as well. “Our measurements of nucleation rates, as well as the information about how organics affect nucleation, will be useful for global models that try to predict information about air and water quality and climate change,” Lee says.  “More precise predictors about how nano particles affect health will help us reduce uncertainty and take effective actions,” she says. 

Lee has high praise for her graduate assistants, MPH students Brittany Brewer, who assists with the toxicology research, and Yiying Liu, who will be travelling with Lee to conduct air quality studies in Colorado and Missouri this summer.  “They are capable, highly productive and surprising me every day,” Lee says, adding that she has been delighted to find they are as competent as students with much stronger physical science backgrounds.

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