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Doctoral Student Amanda Priest Wins EPA Fellowship

Amanda Priest

Amanda Priest, a doctoral student in chemistry at Old Dominion University, has been awarded a much sought after Environmental Protection Agency STAR fellowship that will fund her research into atmospheric carbon pollution over the next three years.

Priest received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry (2006) and her master's in chemistry (2010) from ODU, and now works as a Ph.D. researcher under the mentorship of Patrick Hatcher, the ODU Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences.

STAR stands for "science to achieve results," and Priest's award is part of a graduate environmental study initiative of the EPA. Her successful proposal will involve probes into the nature, origin and reactivity of carbonaceous aerosols in the atmosphere, with the aim of helping regulators home in on major sources of this pollution.

"These combustion residues have a big impact on global warming, and also on human and environmental health," Hatcher said. "This award is a huge recognition for Amanda, foremost, and also for our graduate program in chemistry and for our research group."

Chris Platsoucas, the dean of ODU's College of Sciences, added, "This is a very significant fellowship and it reflects very positively on Ms. Priest and her colleagues at ODU."

Light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols - a common variety is black carbon, or soot, that comes from open fires and internal combustion engines - can absorb heat and warm the atmosphere. But there is a lot that science does not know about the molecular makeup and evolution of the particles.

Priest proposes to use high-precision analytical instruments, such as those in ODU's College of Sciences Major Instrumentation Cluster (COSMIC) Laboratory, to establish molecular "signatures" for carbon samples. This will provide more information about what the molecular makeup is, where the carbon came from and what happens to it in the atmosphere over time.

The next step, Priest explained, is to "establish chemical relationships specific to key emission sources. This information will help to pinpoint the emission sources that have the most detrimental effect on the Earth's radiative budget, and allow policymakers to implement more effective mitigation strategies to target problem pollutants."

Priest received the College of Sciences Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2007, and the university's Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2010. She also was funded as a CIBA Foundation Scholar in 2009-2010.

This article was posted on: July 12, 2011

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