Mason DEVA Project addresses state wide air pollution

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DEVA project leaders and students
gather to discuss recent research findings.

Taking a deep breath of fresh, clean air is a necessity many take for granted. This basic yet vital physical function is essential for health and well-being.

Mason is doing its part to protect clean air through the “Detailed Emissions in Virginia: Novel Approaches to Estimate Air Pollution Sources for Environmental Justice” (DEVA) research project funded by the Jeffress Trust Awards Program in Interdisciplinary Research.

A dedicated team of Mason professors and undergrads will apply their research skills in 2021-2022 while exploring the sources of air pollution in Virginia and how it directly affects the surrounding communities.

“DEVA will examine the major sources of air pollution in Virginia,” says Jenna Krall, an assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health and DEVA project co-lead at Mason.

According to Lucas Henneman, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Mason and DEVA project lead, some populations can be more exposed to air pollution than others.

He says in the state of Virginia, there is a gap in research that explores the link between air pollution sources and vulnerable populations. One goal of DEVA is to try to fill this gap, and the research findings could play an important role in shaping clean air policies.

“We will study emission sources in Virginia—like power plants, cars, and factories—and see what the surrounding community around these sources is like in terms of income, race, and proximity to air pollution sources,” says Henneman.

An important aspect of the funded work is providing undergraduates an opportunity to perform academic research under faculty mentorship.

Students benefit from learning effective research practices that can apply to their careers.

According to junior Gabriella Armada, she sees working on DEVA as a way to help her become a better data scientist.

“I wanted to apply my data science skills outside my courses, and I wanted a real-world application like DEVA where I could apply those skills,” says Armada, who is majoring in computational and data science at Mason.

Air pollution is a major concern for Mason junior Sara Alhassani, a statistics major, and she says working on research that can help to change clean air policies is important to her.

“Looking at how air pollution affects people of lower income and minority groups is a big issue,” says Alhassani. “Being able to identify the root causes and how to minimize air pollution can have a domino effect on everything else, like health.”

The Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust was founded in 1981 with the mission of benefitting the people of Virginia. The Jeffress Trust Program provides seed funding to support one-year pilot studies, like DEVA.