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Keck Foundation Supports Smog Research

W.M. Keck Foundation Grant Boosts UCR’s Air Pollution Research

The $1.5 million grant supports new instruments for one of UCR’s environmental chambers, making it among the best facilities in the world.

(July 13, 2006)

Principal Investigators, from left, Joe Norbeck and David Cocker

Principal Investigators, from left, Joe Norbeck and David Cocker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — University of California, Riverside officials announced today a $1.5 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for new instrumentation that will make the College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) environmental chamber a world-class air pollution research facility.

The Keck Foundation grant will pay for instrumentation, and measurement and analysis equipment that will examine how pollutant gases transform into ozone and particulate matter. The improved measurement and analysis capabilities will make UCR’s environmental chamber at CE-CERT — where scientists make smog in controlled conditions to understand how the physics and chemistry work — the most sophisticated one of its kind in the U.S. It also places this chamber among only three such facilities in the world, the others are found in Spain and Germany.

The CE-CERT chamber was built in 1999 in partnership with the U.S. EPA. Scientists from CE-CERT and UCR’s Air Pollution Research Center (APRC) will collaborate on ground-breaking smog studies based on the improved quality of information available from the upgraded environmental chamber.

“The Keck Foundation’s support has helped us to launch this groundbreaking analysis,” Chancellor France A. Cόrdova said on Wednesday. “For the first time, the two UCR centers will team up to study the inland region’s unique atmospheric chemistry and its effects on health and climate.”

The experiments made possible by the Keck grant will significantly advance scientists’ understanding of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. SOA is part of particulate matter, blamed for a variety of cardiopulmonary health problems. Data from the new facility will also help influence policy approaches to a variety of air quality issues, global warming, human health impacts, transportation and development.

The Keck grant also allows air pollution scientists to develop computer models on a global scale for the formation and fate of greenhouse gases, oxidized nitrogen, ozone, and fine particulate matter.

Joseph Norbeck, Yeager Families Professor of Environmental Engineering and the founding director of CE-CERT, led the project team of seven UCR faculty and researchers who laid the intellectual groundwork that helped secure the Keck grant. The other Principal Investigators are APRC director and atmospheric chemist Roger Atkinson, who is also a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences; CE-CERT Research Chemist William Carter, who led the EPA project to develop the environmental chamber; and David Cocker of the Department of Environmental and Chemical Engineering. APRC scientists Janet Arey and Paul Ziemann, both from the Department of Environmental Sciences; and Jingsong Zhang of the Department of Chemistry contributed to the grant proposal.

“This generous gift will greatly advance our chemical and physical analytical tools for investigation of atmospheric processes leading to ozone and particle formation,” Cocker said.

“The gift will broaden UCR’s capability in atmospheric sciences and allow for us to advance fundamental knowledge in both gas and particle chemistry,” said Norbeck. “This will lead to a better understanding of the risk to public health associated with air pollution and hopefully more efficient control strategies.”

The Los Angeles-based W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The Foundation also maintains a program to support undergraduate science and humanities education and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of health care, civic and community services, education and the arts, with a special emphasis on children.

UCR researchers have been active in atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric chemical processes and the use of environmental chambers in experiments since the early 1970s. The U.S. EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District all recognize researchers at CE-CERT and the APRC as world leaders in air pollution studies. CE-CERT, founded in 1995 with a $10 million Ford Motor Co. gift, has attained international status for its air pollution research in more than 15 countries. The Regents of the University of California, in 1961, established the APRC to conduct basic and applied research into photochemical air pollution after crop damage in the 1950’s in the Los Angeles basin brought the problem to public awareness.
Photo of the environmental chamber taken in 2001

Photo of the environmental chamber taken in 2001

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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