Faculty Name:
Kerry Kelly

Chemical Engineering

Faculty College:


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.**

More than 90% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality does not meet health standards. Indoor and outdoor air pollution cause serious adverse health effects, such as asthma, heart disease, cognitive impairment, and premature mortality. Recently studies have identified an increased risk of mortality due to COVID-19 in regions with elevated particulate air pollution and identified COVID-19 genetic material on air pollution particles. Indoor air quality is particularly important because most individuals spend over 80% of their time indoors. The goals of this project are twofold. First, the students will fabricate and test air quality sensors for measuring indoor air quality in the homes of 10 families living on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. These sensors will include digital and color-coded displays. Second, students will study how hosting sensors changes families’ exposure experiences, including their perceptions and behaviors. The exposure experience encapsulates the nexus between embodied health experiences and scientific understandings of pollutant exposures that influence decision-making regarding the management of risks. Students will: fabricate indoor air pollution sensors; conduct pre- and post-sensor installation interviews with the 10 families; administer surveys to families via a mobile app; analyze indoor air quality data; identify sources of air pollution and barriers to reducing exposures in families’ homes; and advise families on how to mitigate air pollution in their homes. This interdisciplinary research project will provide students with opportunities to construct sensors and conduct social science research and help local families improve indoor air quality.

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:

Students’ will have the opportunity to be part of a dynamic interdisciplinary team involving Dr. Kerry Kelly (Chemical Engineering), Dr. Tony Butterfield (Chemical Engineering), Dr. Sara Grineski (Sociology), Dr. Tim Collins (Geography), and doctoral student Casey Mullen (Sociology). The students will have a key role in this project. Specifically they will: Fabricate and test the air pollution sensors under the guidance of Dr. Kelly and Dr. Butterfield. This will enable students to learn the sensors’ operating principles and possible malfunctions. Develop standard operating procedures and trouble-shooting guidelines for the sensors. Assist with conducting and transcribing of interviews with the 10 families before and after they receive their sensor. Assist with the collection survey data from the families using a mobile app. Analyze the air quality data, specifically particulate matter, after return of the sensors. Identify primary sources of particulate matter air pollution in the families’ homes and barriers the families face in mitigating pollution from those sources. Research locally-relevant solutions to addressing sources of indoor air quality problems affecting the families and share that information with the families. Students who are fluent in Spanish are especially encouraged to apply. Remote Contingency Plan: This project will be flexible to COVID-19 restrictions and is designed to minimize the students’ on-campus time. In the event that the SPUR/HAPPIEST students are not permitted to perform any research on campus due to COVID-19, Drs. Kelly and Butterfield will have their existing students fabricate and test the sensors. We will conduct the pre- and post-interviews over video chat software or the telephone. Students can transcribe interviews remotely. Students can administer surveys to families remotely using the app. Through the interviews and surveys, students can assess likely sources of air pollution in families’ homes as well as the barriers families face in mitigating air pollution from those sources. They can also deliver information about reducing indoor air pollution to the families via video chat software, the telephone, or through a flyer. Students can conduct data analysis through remote desktop applications.

Student Benefits:

By the end of the experience, the students will be able to: Operate a 3d printer. Demonstrate a familiarity with microelectronics. Fabricate and test an air quality sensor. Operate air quality measurement equipment. Demonstrate data analysis skills including calculating measurement statistics and detecting outliers. Develop standard operating procedures. Conduct interviews and surveys. Work with local families to identify and solve indoor air quality problems. The students will gain an understanding of the research process and how interdisciplinary research works. They will learn about how to conduct research within an IRB approved protocol. The experience will increase their competitiveness for graduate school.

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.