WSU student presents research on air pollution

Winter Inversion-01
Graphic by Brett Ferrin

As spring weather comes around, Weber State University students and faculty are working up ways to reduce air pollution. On Wednesday, WSU physics major Anna Hodshire presented their findings at a physics seminar in the Lind Lecture Hall.

Her presentation, entitled “Our Air is Killing Us,” covered and highlighted the research she has performed alongside John Armstrong, WSU physics professor.

“PM2.5s are especially hazardous to everyone’s respiratory health, and I seek to better understand the sources and sinks of PM2.5s and to build simple models of this pollutant using Python programming,” Hodshire said.

PM2.5s are fine particles suspended in the atmosphere that are 2.5 micrometers or less.

“Hodshire is modeling the way pollutants build up in the air in our valley during inversions and what contributes to the pollution,” said Tabetha Hole, WSU physics faculty member.

Part of Hodshire’s research was to use a Python program, which shows measurements of PM2.5s over time.

“I can then lower the pollution levels to see if the air quality is improved enough to avoid days that are hazardous to people’s health,” Hodshire said.

Some ways to reduce air pollution seem simple, but can make a big difference and also increase individuals’ health, such as walking or riding a bike to school.

“These measures should not only be practiced on red air days; they should be practiced all the time to avoid the buildup of pollution,” Hodshire said. “Letting our legislature know that we want and demand strong regulations for all polluting sources is another thing that people could do to make a difference.”

The goal of Hodshire’s research is to “predict how far in advance certain measures, like driving less, should be implemented to avoid red air days.”

Many students like Hodshire are concerned with the environment and the inversions. Seminars give students the opportunity to present their research others.

“I wanted to improve my programming and modeling skills, as that will be one of the emphases of my work in graduate school,” Hodshire said.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium, held today, is an opportunity to celebrate the work students are doing at WSU.

“I think individual research is critical, both to develop skills, network with other researchers and set you apart from students who just attend classes,” Armstrong said. “Students are contributing new knowledge to the scientific endeavor.”

Even though research is required for most undergraduate degrees, it can help students become more involved in their own education.

“Seeing your peers that you may sit in the same classroom with present works of research could make doing such a thing seem more accessible and feasible,” Hodshire said. “Anyone can find meaningful and personally interesting research to work on, in any method they like, from a book report to building something to a lab experience to a computer model.”