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UCR Student Wins Air Quality Award

UCR Graduate Student’s Research Receives Honors from South Coast Air Quality Management District

Wei Li’s project on particulate emissions from ultra low emissions vehicles receives first place in SCAQMD graduate research competition.

(May 12, 2006)

Beatrice J.S. LaPisto-Kirtley, AQMD board member and mayor of Bradbury, CA, presenting Wei Li with the $4,000 award check.

Beatrice J.S. LaPisto-Kirtley, AQMD board member and mayor of Bradbury, CA, presenting Wei Li with the $4,000 award check.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — UC Riverside graduate student researcher Wei Li won first place in the Ultrafine Particle Graduate Research Competition sponsored by Southern California’s leading air quality agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Li's project titled, Characterization of Particulate Emissions of Extremely-Low-Emitting Vehicles, assessed the amount and size distribution, rate, and chemical make up of emission from gasoline-fueled low emitting vehicles. This research highlights the need to gather particulate emissions data about Ultra Low and Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV/SULEV), which Li says are almost nonexistent. Li conducted all of his tests at the Vehicle Emissions Research Laboratory at UCR’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

“It is my great honor to win this award and I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Joe Norbeck, for his guidance and support in my research,” Li said. “Ultrafine particles are of concern because of their potential to increase adverse health effects due to their smaller size, which allows them to penetrate more easily into the lungs. I am glad to see today that the SCAQMD has announced a policy initiative to address these issues and the Ultrafine Particles Conference's timeliness which has attracted international attention.”

The competition invited graduate students throughout the United States to submit summaries of their ulatrafine-particle research projects. Monetary prizes were awarded to the top five graduate research projects. The projects covered a wide range of topics including particle formation, composition, sampling, measurement, health effects, control strategies, and regulatory policy issues.

The SCAQMD judges rewarded Wei Li's effort with the $4,000 first place prize in the competition. The winners were announced during the Ultrafine Particles Conference at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles May 2. A panel of air pollution scientists evaluated the research projects on the basis of originality, scientific merit, quality of writing, and relevance to the field of ultrafine-particle research. Li intends to use the money to pursue the next phase of his research, which will include an increase in the number and types of vehicles tested.

Part of Li’s surprise at having received first place honors came from remembering his project's humble beginnings three years ago, without the benefit of funding.

“It was difficult early on to convince our sponsors that this research was relevant. Wei Li should be commended for his tenacity in pursuing this project for his Ph.D.,” said Li's advisor, Joe Norbeck, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering and the first director at CE-CERT. Norbeck is also the Yeager Families Professor of Environmental Engineering at the Bourns College of Engineering at UCR.

Because ULEV and SULEV vehicles represent a rapidly increasing segment of the modern fleet, Li's research will have significance for years to come.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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