For my research, I focus on determining the impact of anthropogenic activities on the air we breath and the fate of emitted compounds. Doing this requires new tools and methodologies to characterize and analyze our findings. Therefore, I develop new instrumentation, build software to run the instrumentation, and develop algorithms to analyze the data.
At this time, I am working on an instrument to better analyze biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). These are a subset of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that come from plant matter. Plants respire just like animals and humans and they also contribute to the chemistry of the atmosphere. Plants actually contribute to the majority of VOCs that are in the atmosphere (~75-90%, depending on where you are measuring). Therefore, it is important to characterize these compounds because they contribute a large portion to secondary organic aerosols (SOA). SOAs are a subset of aerosols which are a component of smog and haze.
In developing this instrument, a program to run the components is necessary. This involves getting a computer program to talk to electrical components such as heaters, valves, and fans. To do this, I use a program called Labview. Once the instrument is made, it will need to be validated and placed in the field where it will collect data. Once the data is collected, another software program will be used to assist in characterizing the compounds found at the field site.
I am also working on another project that is much smaller in scale but has large implications. A huge problem in atmospheric chemistry is that the instruments used to assist our understanding of the atmosphere are typically cumbersome and expensive. This makes it difficult to deploy many instruments and to put them in places that are difficult to get to. Therefore, I am developing a small sampler that can be replicated at very low costs and deployed on a drone, carried on a bike, or situated in precarious locations very easily. Development of this sampler requires much of the same techniques as the BVOC analyzer. There is a program that runs the sampler which interfaces with small electronic components such as a pump, relative humidity and temperature sensor, and specific gas analyzers (carbon dioxide for example).
For my master’s thesis, I analyzed large sets of ozone data from National Park Sites across the US. The end goal of this project was to determine the effect of large-scale climate dynamics on ozone concentrations in areas less affected by fresh ozone emissions. This was done using an algorithm called the Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition Method (Wu and Huang, 2007).