If You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions

February 2, 2016

Neil Donahue

Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering

Director Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University


If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions


The effects of climate change, air pollution, and efforts by leaders to address these effects are pressing issues that pervade recent news-cycles – from climate talks in Paris to the increase in “red alert” days in Beijing. Dr. Neil Donahue will discuss “If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions.”

Donahue is a Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University; and a Science & Engineering Ambassador with the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. He directs the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.

Climate pollution is mostly invisible and diffuse. More traditional air pollution — haze and smog — is visible and localized.  However, both cause a world of hurt, and addressing them together may be a key to making progress on both.  The “social costs” of pollution can be very high, with the costs of climate pollution distributed over the globe and over generations, while the social costs of air pollution bourn locally and immediately, including contribution to millions of deaths every year.

Donahue will discuss the role of three current research activities towards enabling decision-makers to consider the costs and benefits of policies that could affect both pollution types.  The research includes fundamental experiments about fine atmospheric particles at CERN, the particle-physics research institute in Geneva; a collaboration to model the life-cycle of carbon in regional pollution in China; and development of a decision support tool for city policy makers to compare policy “intervention” options in terms of costs and effectiveness for climate and air-pollution benefits.

Donahue seeks to understand how Earth's atmosphere works and how humans affect the atmosphere. He strives to help all graduating CMU students understand the climate problem and to apply their outstanding problem-solving skills to solutions of this enormous challenge.

Donahue’s research focuses on the behavior of organic compounds in Earth's atmosphere. The world experts in his research group study what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently, the group’s research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health. Particles scatter light, influence clouds, and kill roughly 50,000 people each year in the U.S., mostly of heart attacks.

Donahue earned a degree in physics from Brown University and a doctorate in meteorology from MIT. He spent nine years as a research scientist at Harvard before returning to Pittsburgh in 2000.


Recorded on Monday, February 1, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water

November 12, 2015

Jeanne M. VanBriesen
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University




Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water


Follow along with the slide show here.

How do everyday choices impact the water supply? Carnegie Mellon University professor and Carnegie Science Award winner Dr. Jeanne M. VanBriesen will discuss her research in ““Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water” on Monday, Nov. 9, from 7 – 9 pm, at Carnegie Science Center.


Rivers teem with fish and plants, offer a space for recreation, and provide the source of the water we drink. Rain water, on its way to rivers, runs across watersheds. Watersheds are land surfaces that house activities such as mining, farming, producing electricity, and building homes. These activities pose a challenge to maintaining high quality water for ecosystems, recreation, and potable water supply. VanBriesen will talk about engineering systems that manage the quality and quantity of water resources. She’ll discuss how the choices people make around energy resources in our watersheds affect the options to treat drinking water.


VanBriesen, who serves on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research is in environmental systems, including detection of biological agents in water systems and impacts of energy extraction. 


She earned her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s and doctorate degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University. She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Delaware and has served on the board of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. Earlier this year, VanBriesen was awarded the Environmental Award in the Carnegie Science Awards program for her water quality research.

Recorded Monday, November 9, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Checking the World’s Software for Exploitable Bugs

October 6, 2015

David Brumley

President & Director
Carnegie Mellon Univeristy’s CyLab


Checking the World's Software for Exploitable Bugs

To Carnegie Mellon University’s David Brumley, hacking is “not something just bad guys do.” Brumley, a professor and director of the CyLab Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will discuss the important science behind hacking at Carnegie Science Center’s next Café Scientifique on Monday, Oct. 5, from 7 – 9 pm.

Brumley and his team at Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab (cyber security lab) envision a world in which software is automatically checked for exploitable bugs, giving people the ability to trust their computers. The demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing, and Carnegie Mellon University is working to train students interested in the field.

Brumley is an associate professor who focuses on software security, with appointments in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Computer Science Department.

He is the faculty mentor for the CMU Hacking Team Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP), which is ranked internationally as one of the top teams in the world. Brumley’s honors include a 2010 NSF CAREER award, a 2010 United States Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Obama, the highest award in the U.S. for early career scientists, and a 2013 Sloan Foundation award. Brumley is the 2015 winner of the Carnegie Science Award in the University/Post-Secondary Educator category. He was lauded for recognizing the need for novel approaches to STEM education, leading him to spearhead picoCTF, a national cyber security game and contest targeted at exciting young minds about computer security.

Brumley attended the University of Northern Colorado for his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Stanford University for his master’s degree in computer science, and, most recently, CMU for his PhD in computer science. At Stanford, he worked as a computer security officer, solving thousands of computer security incidents in a four-year span.


Recorded on Monday, October 5, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.