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Houston Chronical photos

Photos by
Carlos Antonio Rios
Houston Chronicle

Using high performance computers and three dimensional models to simulate the atmosphere, I am working to improve our understanding of the formation of atmospheric air pollution. These computer models improve our understanding of the extremely complex chemical and physical processes that occur in the atmosphere. A better understanding of the atmosphere gives us the knowledge to improve the tools and methods that policy makers use to make effective control strategies to clean the air above our dirtiest cities.

What excites me most about my research is that I am doing something that makes a real impact on society. Millions of people in the world breathe danerously polluted air. Through my work, I am able to provide scientific advice to policy makers who make the decisions that can improve our quality of life.

As part of these efforts I have started a company to develop a technology that allows me to measure the toxicity of the air using living cells. For more information on this novel technology click here.

I am happy to be part of a top ranked school of public health. I also serve as advisor to the Environmental Sciences & Engineering Student Organization. I serve on the advisory board for the Scholars' Latino Initiative a program dedicated to providing higher education opportunities for Latino youth in North Carolina.

I am also a Carolina First advocate and a mentor as part of the Finish Line Program.




Novmber 2013 Triangle Business Journal, click here.

May 2013 NPR story on Houston air quality, click here.

May 2013 Carolina Public Health Magazine, click here.

April 2013 180 RTP Entrepreneur Pitch, click here.

September 2012 The Herald Sun, click here.

August 2012 Chemical & Engineering News, click here.

August 2012 UNC SPH, click here.

Spring 2012 Carolina Public Health Magazine, click here.

November 2011 Endeavors magazine, click here.

April 2011 Morning television program in Asuncion Paraguay. Check out the video.

October 2009 Solutions publication, click here.

May 2009 UNC Daily Tarheel, click here.

October 2008 Carolina Public Health, click here.

September 2008 School of Public Health video


Fellowship Opportunities

National Science Foundation

Environmental Protection Agency

Graduate Degrees Minorities in Engineering and Science

Pathways to Science

RTI International Internships


"Partnership to improve inhalation chemical hazard testing paradigms"

This project is a partnership with faculty at UNC, and MatTek Corporation investigators. This partnership will test the hypothesis that the risk of air pollution-related lung disease is different for gas and particulate components present in air pollution mixtures, that physico-chemical processes (e.g., natural sun light, temperature, humidity, etc.) in the atmosphere significantly affects these responses, and that genetics and underlying disease are important determinant for susceptibility. Specifically, we will determine the effects of diesel exhaust gas and gas+PM fractions on organotypic human tracheal epithelial cultures in vitro, and compare the responses of in vitro organotypic human cultures to diesel exhaust in the context of different background atmospheres. The data and knowledge that will be generated will have an impact through its ability to provide a bridge between lab-based research on toxicity mechanisms and human epidemiological studies by providing a tool that can be applied to "real" world atmospheres, and can differentiate between various components of the complex mixtures of the pollutants.

For information please see this video and link. This project involves collaboration with Dr. Harvey Jeffries and the UNC outdoor smog chamber and the UNC School of Medicine. Here are some photos of our outdoor smog chamber used int his project. Please see this article in Carolina Public Health magazine for more information about this project.

“Technical Support for the attainment of ambient ozone standard in Houston, TX”

This project entails technical analysis in support of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The SIP is the strategy the state of Texas will adopt to achieve attainment of the 8-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. All SIP strategies are based on predictions by air quality models. Our role at UNC is to provide the necessary tools and expertise to systematically evaluate and diagnose the complex relationships found in these air quality models. We also provide third party objectivity and meaningful scientific analysis to assist state regulatory agencies to make effective control strategies. This project includes collaborators from Alpine Geophysics LLC.

Environmental Determinents of Cognitive Aging in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study"

This project involves collaboration with Dr. Marc Serre to produce pollution exposure estimates using a novel integration of modeling and surface measurement data. This is a NIH funded project.

"Air Quality Model diagnostic and model performance tool development”

Air quality models determine air pollutant concentrations by calculating rates of atmospheric processes. Many models output only the spatial and temporal distribution of species concentrations, and rates of the individual processes that lead to these changes are not recorded.  With only concentration fields, it is often difficult to infer why air pollutant concentrations change.  A more detailed evaluation of modeled processes led to the development of a process analysis tool called pyPA (Process Analysis in python). The pyPA tool can quantitatively track physical and chemical processes that contribute to changing pollutant concentrations. The pyPA tool already has been utilized to explain model phenomena in California and Houston, Texas. The tool, however, was only able to analyze a fixed part of the modeling domain.   This method offers insights to the key variables for that region, but has previously been limited when analyzing a moving feature such as a large petrochemical release or the transport of an urban plume.  This project involves modifications of our pyPA tool to aggregate data for a moving, resizing, and reshaping domain. 



"Assessment of environmental risk in the United Arab Emirates"

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has signed a contract with researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health to lead an assessment of health risks due to environmental factors in the country, one of the fastest developing nations in the world. My involvement is with the outdoor air quality team whose aims are to improve our understanding of the sources of pollutants, their chemical transformation and transport, and the exposure and possible health effects to the public. Please view some photos of my recent trips to that country and some press releases.

"Methods to explain origins of health effects and plan effective remediation" VIDEO

The aims of this project are to provide health researchers new methods to measure and predict the health effects of harmful fresh and aged gas and particle mixtures. Both are needed to explain how city air harms and ultimately kills people. For information please see this video and link. This project involves collaboration with Dr. Harvey Jeffries and the UNC outdoor smog chamber and the UNC School of Medicine. Here are some photos of our outdoor smog chamber used int his project. This project is funded by the Gillings Innovation Labs. Please see this article in Carolina Public Health magazine for more information about this project.


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