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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Faculty Member Selected for NASA Air Quality and Health Team

Dr. Jason West, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been selected to join a new health and air quality applied sciences team (H-AQAST) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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[Photo: Dr. Jason West]

The new NASA team aims to make modern atmospheric science more useful for air pollution and public health managers by engaging more directly with decision-makers. In particular, the team will use NASA satellite observations and models of the Earth to support decision making for air quality and health.

“I am excited by this opportunity,” said Dr. West, “not only to conduct studies that will have an influence on environmental and public health policies, but also to better understand how to improve engagement with decision makers in future projects.”

Over the past decade, Dr. West has used atmospheric science and modeling to drive health impact and quantitative policy analyses, connecting air pollution, climate change and energy with human health and policy. He was the first to use a global atmospheric model in a health impact analysis, and his research group was first to use a single global model – and later, a model ensemble – to estimate the global health burden of ambient air pollution.

In the NASA project, Dr. West and colleagues will estimate global ground-level ozone concentrations by merging observations with model simulations and will provide the dataset to researchers with the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study for their use in evaluating the burden of ambient ozone for global human health.

That study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, is the largest and most detailed scientific effort ever conducted to quantify levels and trends in health.

Dr. West’s team also will model the benefits to global air quality and health of reductions in greenhouse gases that were pledged in the 2015 Paris Agreement to address climate change.

“The NASA Applied Sciences Program looks forward to the results over the next three years from the 13 experts selected for the Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team,” said Dr. John Haynes, program manager. “I am certain that this diverse and qualified team will successfully build upon the enduring legacy of the NASA Air Quality Applied Sciences Team that began in 2011.”

Dr. Marc Serre, also an associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School, is a co-investigator on the NASA team.

Other scientists on the team are collaborators from the University of British Columbia, Health Canada, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.