The Center Director's Report

The Center has, in its first six 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 its parts, by fostering cross-fertilization between the different investigators; and
  3. neutral forums for discussions on the scientific bases for some of the more contentious issues facing policy makers, by sponsoring summer symposia on tropospheric ozone, air toxics, low emission vehicles, advanced instrumentation for air quality measurements, and fine particles in the atmosphere.

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 complicated issues facing the nation.

The Center continues to be effective in bringing together expertise which is distributed at three locations. Frequent exchanges of information 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 environmental goals for which it was established. The members of the SAC have been subdivided into the three principal program focus areas 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.

A strength of the Center which reflects the guidance provided by the SAC is the encouragement of redirections of activities within projects to take advantage of resources available elsewhere within the Center. Center projects lead to synergies that cross institutional and disciplinary lines. Examples are the redirection at MIT of modeling studies of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons formation in flames to include techniques developed at NJIT for treating the effects of pressure on rate coefficients, the extension of rate coefficient calculations at NJIT to focus on the reactions of importance in smog formation studies at Caltech, and the application in soot particle studies at MIT of electrical mobility analyzer techniques developed at 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 meeting held in an informal setting near Boston. Oral presentations of the different projects are included in the program and associated SAC meeting. This arrangement provides the Center's investigators with opportunities to learn about each other's activities and to obtain useful suggestions on their research from other participants within the Center, the SAC, and other meeting attendees. At the suggestion of the SAC the meetings are organized so as to separate the functions of outreach, addressed by a summer symposium directed to the specialized community, and the principal investigators meeting bringing together the students and faculty in the Center.

This past summer's symposium continued the Center's record of successful gatherings of representatives from industry, EPA and other government agencies, public interest groups, and acadame, to address an important scientifically-intensive environmental issue with major public policy implications. The focus was costs and benefits estimation in air quality regulations. Highlights of the symposium are presented in a recent report, which is also available in its entirety on the Center's web site:

The past year has also witnessed significant progress in fulfilling major research goals of our Center. Highlights of this progress are listed below and a brief description of each project is given later in this report.