Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Environmental Engineering Faculty Member at Texas A&M-Kingsville Awarded $400,000 National Science Foundation Award

KINGSVILLE - February 04, 2009

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An environmental engineering assistant professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville has been awarded $400,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Program for her work in understanding vehicular emitted ultrafine particles (UFP).

Dr. Yifang Zhu was recognized for research that focuses on transport and transformation of UFP from vehicle tailpipes to within the vehicle cabin. UFP are a major component of vehicular emissions that have been linked to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Zhu will generate UFP, characterize their form and volatility, conduct filtration and penetration measurements, and develop models that will simulate the path of the UFP from the tailpipe to the cabin. She will then compare her test results against UFP and their paths in actual vehicles. Zhu also will test UFP in school buses and share the results with high school students as an outreach tool to stimulate interest in science and engineering. Testing will take place at Kingsville and Corpus Christi, then internationally in Mexico, Finland and China.

The formal name for Zhu’s project is “Effects of Volatility and Morphology on Vehicular Emitted Ultrafine Particle Dynamics.”

Zhu’s students serve as active participants in the project, measuring UFPs in the laboratory and the field. In addition, the details of the project will be presented to area 10th graders in lesson plans developed by Larry Lollar, a teacher at A.C. Jones High School in Beeville. Lollar worked with Zhu’s research group in 2007 through A&M-Kingsville’s Research Experience for Teachers summer program, which lets middle and high school teachers learn about environmental engineering firsthand by working alongside A&M-Kingsville researchers. The program is sponsored by the Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology-Research on Environmental Sustainability of Semi-Arid Coastal Areas (CREST-RESSACA), within the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at A&M-Kingsville.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative proposals that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.  Such plans should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education.

“The CAREER award is very prestigious, recognizing future leaders in my field,” said Zhu. “Receiving an award like this means so much to me.”

Interim dean of the College of Engineering Dr. Kuruvilla John said of the award, “This is an incredible accomplishment by Dr. Zhu at such an early stage of her academic and research career. The award along with her recent Walter A. Rosenblith New Investigator Award from the Health Effects Institute in 2007 places her among an elite group of faculty who are recipients of two or more young investigator awards.

“She joins Dr. Jianhong Ren, also of environmental engineering, as the second CAREER Award winner at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. I am very proud of her successes and I am thrilled for Dr. Zhu and her family for this major recognition.”

Zhu has been with Texas A&M University-Kingsville as a faculty member in the department of environmental engineering since June 2006, while serving as a senior research investigator with CREST-RESSACA. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor in residence from 2005-2006 and a post-doctoral researcher from 2003-2005 at UCLA. While at UCLA, Zhu was the lead author of two seminal studies evaluating how pollutant concentrations vary with distance from the road.

Zhu holds a Ph.D. in environmental health science from UCLA, an M.S. in environmental science and engineering from Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and a B.S. in environmental engineering from Tsinghua University in China.
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