Faculty Name:
Daniel Mendoza

City & Metropolitan Planning

Faculty College:
Architecture + Planning


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2021 begins on May 26 and ends on August 5. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2021 application.**

Exposure to air pollution has been associated with multiple negative health outcomes such as pulmonary and cardiovascular events, particularly among vulnerable populations. Over 200,000 people live in Salt Lake City, capital city of Utah and county seat, with over 1.2 million residents in the Salt Lake City Metropolitan area. Salt Lake City is surrounded by mountains to the south, east and west, creating a topographical basin that traps pollution during wintertime stable layers or cold-air pools (also known as inversions) leading to high levels of pollutants, especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Interstate highways, an international airport and railroad traffic, industrial pollution sources, windblown dust and wildfires are among the complex sources that contribute these episodic pollution events that are most frequent and severe in the winter and summer. With a growing population and increasing wildfire and dust storm occurrences summertime air quality is becoming an increasing public health concern. Due to the lack of granular, reliable air quality measurements, all previous pollutant exposure and health-related studies have intrinsic resolution issues when examining scales smaller than a county or city. This reduces applicability, since a single sensor cannot portray intra-city variability, nor truly represent individual or neighborhood-scale exposure. This leads to significant mischaracterization of a population’s vulnerability and potential health outcomes. Understanding that the burden of poor air quality is not shared equally among populations is a key motivator for understanding environmental exposure at neighborhood scales.

This project is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (PIs: Sara Grineski and Tim Collins). In addition to being part of SPUR, it is also part of the HAPPIEST programTHIS MEANS THAT IT IS OPEN ONLY TO UNIVERSITY OF UTAH APPLICANTS FROM RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITY BACKGROUNDS. Two students will be selected to work on this project together.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

The students, along with a graduate student mentor and Dr. Mendoza, will work together to develop a 10-week long research project within the confines of Mendoza’s ongoing projects. The focus of the project will include air quality and health. Students will develop skills in project management and development that will result in a complete product to share with the community at large in addition to an academic audience. The students will learn communication methods to engage with and involve stakeholders as part of the project. The students will also become familiar with the various air quality observation platforms and emissions datasets available, as well as health outcome metrics. The students will also develop quantitative and programming skills to analyze exposure and health data sets as part of the project. Given that the team will involve members from different disciplines, students will contextualize their project across disciplines. Remote Contingency Plan: The COVID-19 contingency plan will involve the elimination of in-person meetings and replace them with a fully virtual workspace. The entirety of this work can be performed remotely so the student does not need to be on-site to successfully complete the research.

Student Benefits:

At the completion of this research experience, students will: Understand pollutant emission modeling approaches Be familiar with air quality observation methodology Have hands-on experience with air quality sensors (COVID-19 restrictions may prevent this) Estimate exposure metrics at different temporal scales Learn how to find and retrieve applicable health data to study Utilize a statistical software package (R, Matlab, etc.) to perform data analysis Convey enactable applications of their findings and results Develop and manage a project to be presented at the end of the summer Gain experience communicating with stakeholders outside of academia

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 26, 2021, and ends August 5, 2021

Minimum Requirements:

In addition to being part of SPUR, this project is also part of the HAPPIEST program. THIS MEANS THAT IT IS OPEN ONLY TO UNIVERSITY OF UTAH APPLICANTS FROM RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITY BACKGROUNDS. Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2021 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2021 and not graduating before December 2021; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but might not be able to be compensated. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at an American institution of higher education and verify with your institution’s international center that your visa allows you to participate in this program, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 26-August 5, 2021). 4) at least 18 years old by May 24, 2021 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing). Please note that no previous college coursework or previous research experience is required.