Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Laboratory for Atmospheric Research

LAR News Spotlight

LAR's EPA project on pollen, climate and health

January 2014: LAR's research on pollen, climate, and health is featured in EPA's The Quarterly Planet: Climate and Health Issue Issue (January 2014). The research group, led by Richard Flagan of California Institute of Technology, is projecting how pollen levels and respiratory impacts will be affected by global climate change, finding that pollen season may start five to six days earlier on the West Coast by midcentury. Read more...

LAR at PNWIS 2013

Nov 8, 2013: LAR student Claudia Toro took second prize for the best student oral presentation at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest International Section of the Air and Waste Management Association in Victoria, BC. Claudia's presentation was entitled, "Photoactive Roads: Assessing a Potential Air Pollution Control Strategy". Conference abstracts can be viewed here.

LAR Students Win Awards at AAAR Conference

Oct 4, 2013: LAR students Courtney Herring and Celia Faiola won poster awards at the 32 Annual American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR) Conference, held Sept 30 - Oct 4, 2013 in Portland, Oregon. Links to their abstracts are provided below:

REACCH Greenhouse Gas Exchange Video

May 2, 2013: This video describes how researchers at WSU monitor greenhouse gas exchanges in cereal-based cropping systems using the eddy covariance flux tower. This work is part of the REACCH PNA research project.

Passing the Smell Test

Spring 2013: (by Eric Sorensen) PULLMAN, Wash. - The act of smelling starts out as chemical detection but often ends up as an emotional trigger. Scientists at the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research tease out the contents of air samples with a proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. Read more...

WSU researchers predict air pollution levels

Sept 24, 2012: PULLMAN, Wash. (from - WSU researchers are trying to better anticipate smoky conditions and poor air quality. Atmospheric researchers at WSU are able to analyze the air in Pullman to find out exactly what's polluting it using a program called AIRPACT. Watch video below, or read more.

Researchers at WSU able to predict levels of air pollutants

Sept 21, 2012: PULLMAN, Wash. (from - Over the last week, the Palouse's beautiful view of the rolling hills disappeared into a haze of smoke due to all the wildfires in the region. Atmospheric researchers at WSU are able to analyze the air in Pullman to find out exactly what's polluting it. Read more.

WSU air quality research helps forecasters

Sept 14, 2012: (by Tina Hilding) PULLMAN, Wash. - In the midst of an extreme fire season, researchers from the Washington State University Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR) are helping state and federal agencies make better predictions of air quality in the Northwest.

LAR researchers developed the first high-resolution, Web-based air quality forecast system in the country. The system, called AIRPACT, or Air Indicator Report for Public Awareness and Community Tracking, is run year-round on a daily basis in the Northwest.

It uses numerical weather forecasts and pollution emission data to predict the concentration of ozone, particulates and other pollutants as they are emitted, transformed, removed and transported across the region.

The AIRPACT-3 system is receiving wildfire data from satellites and is producing air quality forecasts nightly. In particular, the system models small particulate matter under 2.5 micrometers in size, which is indicative of wildfire smoke.

The results, which are provided at, illustrate how the emissions modeled for today, along with the carry-over of smoke from the previous day, are affecting the region's air quality.

LAR REU student to attend NCAR's Undergraduate Leadership Workshop

May 14, 2012: REU undergraduate student Heather Baxter has been selected to participate in NCAR's Undergraduate Leadership Workshop to be held in Boulder, Colorado, June 11–15, 2012. The workshop is designed to inform students about exciting research and career opportunities in the atmospheric and related sciences. The 5-day program will establish informal dialogue between students and research scientists as the students explore the laboratories, instrumentation, and computing facilities that support studies on weather, climate change, solar dynamics, the Sun-Earth system, and impacts of severe weather and climate change on societies around the world.

Brian Lamb to lead field studies in support of NASA Mars Mission

May 9, 2012 (Pullman, WA): Rural Eastern Washington will become a testing ground in support of a mission to explore the Martian atmosphere for potential evidence of life under a recently funded NASA project. The proposed mission is intended to help determine whether periodic plumes of methane gas previously detected within the Martian atmosphere are the product of biological or other activity, such as volcanism. Read more...

Natalie Wagenbrenner presented best student poster award

January 22-26, 2012 (New Orleans, LA): Graduate student Natalie Wagenbrenner received the Best Poster Award at the 17th Conference on the Applications of Air Pollution Meteorology, part of the 92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting. Her poster was entitled "Development and Evaluation of High Resolution Simulation Tools to Improve Fire Weather Forecasts."

Guenther Receives 2011 Yoram J. Kaufman Unselfish Cooperation in Research Award

December 5-9, 2011 (San Francisco, CA): Alex B. Guenther received the Yoram J. Kaufman Unselfish Cooperation in Research Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting, held 5–9 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes "broad influence in atmospheric science through exceptional creativity, inspiration of younger scientists, mentoring, international collaborations, and unselfish cooperation in research." Read more...

NSF funds research to measure pollution in China

Dec 5, 2011:  Researchers from the WSU Laboratory of Atmospheric Research traveled to China last summer to measure air pollution in an emerging megacity and to help that country increase its understanding of air quality impacts.

The NSF-funded project, the first of its kind in China, is part of a three-year, multi-institutional effort to measure emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases in Xi'an. With 8 million people, it is one of the country's oldest and most rapidly growing cities. Read more...

Mentoring programs help female students feel less isolated in the sciences

by Katie Roenigk, Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Posted: Nov 5, 2011)

There may be more women working as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians now than in the past, but area educators say there is still a significant lack of female representation in these "STEM" fields. According to an August report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, women held fewer than 25% of STEM jobs in the past decade.

To improve these numbers, local educators seek to engage young women in STEM-related fields. By participating in positive learning experiences both in and out of the classroom, middle and high school girls may feel more open to career opportunities in engineering, science, and technology.

Once a woman has chosen to pursue a STEM field, participation in a mentorship program can greatly improve retention. Organizations like the Society for Women Engineers and the WSU Women's Mentoring Program provide a forum of contact with practicing professionals in engineering, computer science, and architecture. This gives students an opportunity to talk to someone outside the university and to learn what it's like to have a professional career.

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Feeling at home in the lab

by Katie Roenigk, Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Posted: Nov 5, 2011)

There may be more women working as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians now than in the past, but area educators say there is still a significant lack of female representation in these "STEM" fields.

"I absolutely believe there's not enough women entering the field," Moscow High School principal Bob Celebrezze said. "It's something I completely believe needs to be rectified."

Moscow High School science teacher Pat Blount agreed, as did first-grade teacher Rena Mincks at Jefferson Elementary School in Pullman. At the college level, Sue Branting, program specialist in the University of Idaho's College of Engineering, said it's a fact that there are fewer women than men in STEM.

According to an August report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, women held fewer than 25% of STEM jobs in the past decade.

"We encouraged (women) to go into home economics or teaching – more support roles," said Cara Poor, assistant professor in Washington State University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "I think that was really institutionalized."

Julie Rausch and Sabrina Fandler are both civil engineering seniors at WSU. Both said they remember feeling like STEM fields were "weird" for girls as teenagers.

"It's because of the way society has developed, with women not being in the work force," Fandler said. "The male is the breadwinner and will do the hard, crunching numbers job. The woman will be a secretary or a teacher."

But Poor said STEM benefits from the unique skills and perspectives that women can provide, and that is why some people are working to increase the numbers of women going into those fields.

"The more diverse your work force is, the more innovative ideas will result," Poor said.

Early intervention

Poor said women need to be brought into STEM early. As advisor for the WSU Chapter of the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), Poor sends a group of students to area middle schools at least once a year to teach children that STEM can be fun. During one excursion, for example, the group made ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

"They do all of these demonstrations (to) show the students the fun things they can do with the knowledge they gained from engineering," Poor said.

Mincks hopes that positive lessons will help female students be open to career opportunities in the future.

Branting said UI's College of Engineering targets high school students by hosting events like Women in Engineering Day, when high school juniors and seniors are invited to campus for a day of events and tours.

"With the help of faculty and staff we can show these young women that engineering isn't just for boys," Branting said.

Celebrezze and Blount recruit as many female students as possible to attend the event, and Celebrezze said the high school works with UI when researching changes to their science curriculum. He highlighted one class, math-based physics, that contains 31 students—11 of whom are female.

"We're trying to decide whether a move within our science sequence will… increase the opportunity for young ladies to enter STEM courses in high school so we can try to foster additional numbers of young ladies entering those fields," Celebrezze said.


Once a woman has chosen to pursue a STEM field, she may become discouraged by the fact she is a minority within her industry. Fandler said most of her classes are 10% women. Though she is not personally daunted by the ratio, she knows some of her peers are. In a recent student survey, 25% of women said they would feel intimidated in a male-dominated class taught by a male teacher, Fandler said.

"They just feel they don't have anybody to identify with," she said. "They feel they don't belong there. It's so dominated by one specific gender, they're like, 'Why am I here?' "

Organizations like SWE can help provide a group for women who feel isolated in class. But another tool recently became available at WSU: a Women's Mentoring Program was created in 2008 to help female engineering students succeed by pairing the students with practicing women engineers.

"These mentors can talk to (the students) about what engineers do and what it's like to be an engineer," Poor said. "It's also an effort to connect the student to the larger engineering community."

Mentors can help explain practical applications of calculus, Poor said, but they also can speak to more personal matters. Rausch said she talked to her mentor about the prospect of raising children while working as an engineer, for example, while Fandler took the opportunity to ask about day-to-day activities on the job. The women also keep in contact through email or phone calls and are encouraged to meet in person whenever possible.

According to Poor, it's working. Poor has mentored the retention rates of female students, and on average 49% of female engineers who came to WSU between 2003 and 2009 dropped out of their program by the end of freshmen year. In the fall of 2010, 68% of the 54 women who entered WSU's College of Engineering chose to remain for a second year.

Forty-two of those students participated in the mentoring program, Poor said, and for that subset the retention rate was 74%.

"That was really encouraging for us," she said.

The year, the program includes 90 students and 60 mentors, and Fandler hopes it continues to spread, possibly incorporating male engineers.

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Shelley Pressley named new WSU undergraduate research director

Aug 30, 2011: "It's a very exciting time for undergraduate researchers and their mentoring faculty at WSU, and I'm honored by the opportunity to have a larger role in the future of this high-impact program," Pressley said. Read more...

Students climb steep terrain to improve fire weather forecasts

Aug 2, 2011: As part of WSU's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, LAR student researchers recently traveled to Riggins, Idaho, where they climbed steep hillsides overlooking the Salmon River and installed groups of wind measurement instruments. Researchers would like to have better information about how winds travel through canyons to improve their models. Fire weather forecasters currently rely on weather simulations that look at weather in chunks of four square kilometers. In an area with tricky topography, however, such as a river canyon, these computerized weather simulations don't capture the complexity of what's happening on the ground. Read more...

Gordon Dowler receives GPSA Travel Grant

May 31, 2011: LAR graduate student Gordon Dowler has been awarded a grant of up to $650 for travel expenses. The Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA) Graduate Student Travel Grant funds are intended to help graduate students in their research and scholarly activities. They are available to present papers at significant meetings and extraordinary training opportunities away from the university campus.

Farren Herron-Thorpe awarded 1st place in oral presentation

January 24-27, 2011, Seattle, WA: LAR graduate student Farren Herron-Thorpe placed 1st at the 13th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry with his oral presentation entitled, "Analysis of OMI NO2 trends in comparison to regional model forecasts for urban areas of the Pacifi Northwest."

Rodrigo Gonzalez-Abraham presented student poster award

January 24-27, 2011, Seattle, WA: LAR graduate student Rodrigo Gonzalez-Abraham placed 3rd at the 13th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry with his poster entitled, "Analysis of the effects of wildfires upon US air quality for current and future climate conditions."

Rasa Grivicke receives 2011 Wagner Award

LAR graduate student Rasa Grivicke has been presented the 2011 Peter B. Wagner Memorial Award for Women in Atmospheric Sciences. The award, based on a written paper competition, is given to a woman pursing a Masters or Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences or a related program at a university in the United States.

Rodrigo Gonzalez-Abraham to attend the AMS policy colloquium

LAR graduate student Rodrigo Gonzalez-Abraham has been selected to participate in the 2011 AMS Summer Policy Colloquium, June 5-14, 2011, in Washington, DC. Rodrigo earned this recognition based on his the achievements, demonstrated potential and personal qualities. The AMS Summer Policy Colloquium brings a select group to Washington, D.C. for an intense, ten-day immersion in atmospheric policy.

$3M awarded for Regional Earth-System Modeling

A CEE team led by Jennifer Adam and including co-PIs Michael Brady, Anantharaman Kalyanaraman, Brian Lamb, and Claudio Stockle has been awarded a $3,053,000 grant for a project titled "Understanding Biogeochemical Cycling in the Context of Climate Variability Using a Regional Earth System Modeling Framework." The project aims to improve understanding of the interactions among carbon, nitrogen, and water at the regional scale in the context of global change and inform decision makers for better, more effective strategies regarding natural and agricultural management.
» Learn more at the project's BioEarth website.

Olga Martyusheva to participate in NCAR Workshop

LAR undergraduate Olga Martyusheva has been invited to attend the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Undergraduate Leadership Workshop to be held in Boulder, Colorado, June 13-17, 2011.

NSF funds Spokane-Coeur d'Alene urban planning grant

The National Science Foundation has funded this planning grant for the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Corridor (SCC) that will start September 1, 2010. This joint effort between the University of Idaho and Washington State University will provide additional funds to develop information needed and the next steps to aid community efforts for sustainable management of natural resources in this rapidly urbanizing region.    Read more      Project description [pdf]

Study of air pollution in China earns NSF grant

July 21, 2010, Pullman, WA:  Several researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering's Laboratory for Atmospheric Research are assessing air chemistry with the aid of an NSF grant to better understand air pollution and its impacts. Read more...

Instrument to measure pollution is mounted on a tower atop a 25-story building in China
Farah Abedin and Sarah Waldo adjust equipment during an atmospheric composition lab.
Farah Abedin, left, and Sarah Waldo adjust equipment during an atmospheric composition lab. [Photo: Dean Hare/Daily News]

Jinshu Chi, a first year doctoral candidate in the Environmental Engineering program, records data from an atmospheric test at WSU.
Jinshu Chi, first year doctoral candidate in the Environmental Engineering program, records data from an atmospheric test. [Photo: Dean Hare/Daily News]

LAR News Spotlight

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