Center on Airborne Organics

Annual Report 1995: Center Director's Report

The Center has in its first three years made substantial progress on its goals of providing:

  1. new tools for characterizing the generation, fate and transport, source attribution, and control of combustion generated organic pollutants;
  2. an entity greater than the sum of it parts, by fostering cross-fertilization between the different investigators; and
  3. neutral fora for the discussions on the scientific bases for some of the more contentious issues facing policy makers, by sponsoring summer symposia on tropospheric ozone, air toxics, and low emission vehicles.

The success of the Center derives from the involvement of faculty members with major collateral research on different facets of airborne organics, with the principal investigators bringing to the Center their expertise and contacts and the Center providing the integration of the different studies to address the complicated issues facing the nation.

The Center is a good example of the viability of the electronic superhighway in bringing together expertise that is distributed at three locations. Frequent exchanges between the Center's directors, principal investigators, the EPA project officer, and the Science Advisory Committee (SAC) take place via electronic mail and a remarkable degree of coordination has been made possible by the Internet.

The Center has been fortunate in having a very able and active Science Advisory Committee (SAC) which has worked hard to make sure the Center achieves the goals originally set up. The members of the SAC has been subdivided into the three principal focus areas of the program and have prepared statements on the short and long term objectives of each focus area which have been folded into the request for proposals for the Center. The SAC has been particularly active in seeking opportunities for collaboration between the projects within the Center and in the development of the agenda for the summer symposia sponsored by the Center.

Eleven projects were originally supported by the Center. Partly as a result of the guidance provided by the SAC there has been a number of redirections of the activities within the projects have taken place to take advantage of the resources available elsewhere within the Center. Some of the examples of the synergy that is occurring between projects, often crossing institutional lines, is the redirection of the studies of the estimation of rate constants and chemical analysis of polar compounds at NJIT to focus on the chemicals of importance in the smog chamber studies at Caltech, the use by a doctoral student at Caltech of the facilities for bacterial and human cell assays at MIT, the provision to the MIT researchers working on source attribution of some of the well documented source samples from Caltech. At the recommendation of the SAC the projects are funded for two year periods, so that half of the projects are terminated every year and replaced with new ones or, where justified, continued but usually with a new orientation.

The students and the principal investigators have an opportunity for direct contact once a year at the summer symposia held in an informal setting outside of Boston. By having at the summer symposia and associated SAC meeting both posters and oral presentations on the different projects, the Center's investigators have a good opportunity to learn about each other's activities and obtain useful suggestions on their research from other participants within the Center, the SAC, and other attendees at the summer symposia. At the suggestion of the SAC future meetings will separate the functions of outreach to the specialized community addressed by the summer symposia and workshops bringing together the students and faculty in the Center.