Reflections on Indoor Air 2018 and the Contributions of the University of Texas IAQ Program

Indoor Air 2018 was special for me.  Since 1999 I have attended every Indoor Air meeting as a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin.  This was my last, as I prepare to take on a new role as H. Chik M. Erzurumlu Dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University.

Indoor Air conferences are the premiere conferences for those of us around the globe who study indoor air quality.  The conference series was started in 1978.  Until 2014 in Hong Kong it was held every three years.  It then went to a two-year cycle, and was just recently held in Philadelphia. The conference generally draws around 1,000 delegates, with perhaps ¼ being graduate students.  The bulk of the remainder are faculty members at universities around the world, researchers in government labs, and a much smaller number of policymakers, industry staff, and consultants.

The University of Texas organized Indoor Air 2011 in Austin.  Two outstanding graduates of UT Austin organized the conference in 2018.  I am pleased and proud of the influence that the indoor air quality program at the University of Texas at Austin has made on our field, and the significant connections that we have made within the field.  The combined attendance (n = 22) of our current team and our graduates at Indoor Air 2018 was equivalent to that of a moderate-sized country, with over 2% of conference delegates sprung from just one program in one academic department at UT Austin.  Our team presented cutting-edge research related to emissions and presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in schools and other buildings, outdoor and indoor ozone concentrations in high schools in Texas, particle concentrations in high school classrooms, the dynamics of formaldehyde concentrations and emissions in classrooms, particle emissions from photocopy machines, and more.

I am so very proud of the six current students from our department (Chenyang Bi, Hagen Fritz, Jonathan Gingrich, Sangeetha Kumar, Hongwan Li, Michael Wade) who attended the conference and delivered wonderfully professional presentations. The feedback from those who interacted with our students and who observed them when they gave presentations on their research was universally positive.  They served as great ambassadors for our department and university.

Our four Professors chaired sessions, taught in an indoor air quality summer school course for graduate students and post-docs, served on panels, gave podium presentations, and were important contributors to workshops on cutting-edge issues in the field.  Dr. Atila Novoselac was elected to the Academy of Fellows of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ), a very well-deserved honor.  I was also elected President of the Academy of Fellows, a humbling honor and one for which I am grateful for the confidence of fellow Academy members.

But there were also many other connections to our program that were obvious at the conference.  First and foremost, the President (Michael Waring of Drexel University) and Technical Chair (Brent Stephens of Illinois Institute of Technology) were extraordinary Ph.D. students in our NSF-funded IGERT program on Indoor Environmental Science & Engineering.  And so was James Lo (also of Drexel University), who played a major role in smooth functioning of the conference.  Many other of our ex-students who are now in academia were present and made major contributions to Indoor Air 2018.  Their presence and contributions to the conference made me glow with pride.  These alumni included Elliott Gall (Portland State University), who received the Yaglou Award as a promising young researcher in the indoor air sciences.  Several past recipients of this award are now in the Academy of Fellows of ISIAQ>  Other alumni included Dr. Chi Chi Lin (National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan), Dr. Ellison Carter (Colorado State University), Dr. Donghyun Rim (Penn State University), Dr. Brandon Boor (Purdue University), Dr. Jordan Clark (Ohio State University), and Dr. Shichao Liu (Worcester Polytechnic University).  Dr. Dustin Poppendieck, also an alumnus of our department as a Ph.D. student, and later as post-doc and research engineer on my team, is now a highly-recognized indoor air quality engineer at NIST.  Dustin was very active at Indoor Air 2018, as speaker, session chair, panelist, and all around catalyst for engaging discussions about indoor air quality research.  And Dr. Mark Jackson (Daikin Industries) was in attendance as a representative of the research groups at the world’s largest mechanical systems company.  What an impact our alumni are making!

But it does not stop there.  Many others at the conference have engaged in significant collaboration with our program.  The President of Indoor Air 2016, Dr. Jelle Laverge (University of Ghent), spent several months in our lab working on his Ph.D. dissertation and doing cutting-edge research on exposure to pollutants in the sleep microenvironment.  Dr. Gabriel Beko (Danish Technical University) spent several months in our lab while completing his Ph.D. dissertation.  Dr. Charlie Weschler (Rutgers University) has visited our program numerous times, and previously served as Chair of the External Advisory Committee for our highly successful NSF IGERT program on Indoor Environmental Science and Engineering.  Dr. Jack Spengler (Harvard University) also served in that same role.  Prominent indoor air quality researcher Dr. Pawel Wargocki hosted my extended visits to the Technical University of Denmark, an institution for which I just participated as a signatory on a new student exchange program with our department.  Keynote speaker Dr. Glenn Morrison (U of North Carolina) spent a nine-month sabbatical in our department.

The connections between the indoor air quality field and our program at UT Austin were also evident in presentations by Dr. Marina Vance (CU Boulder), Dr. Allen Goldstein (UC Berkeley), and others who spoke directly about or alluded to the recent HOMEChem field campaign involving 13 universities at the University of Texas Test House facility.

The list of connections with our Indoor Air Quality program could go on.  Needless to say, in my waning days as a faculty member at UT Austin I am exceptionally proud of the impactful program that my colleagues and I have built.  It has helped to shape the field of indoor air quality.  And with that, one last huge HookEm!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.