Tiny particles, big discoveries

“Millions of people in the world breathe dangerously polluted air. What excites me most about my research is that I’m doing something that makes a real impact on society.”

Will Vizuete is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

Much of his research focuses on aerosol emissions, tiny particles floating in the atmosphere that, yes, can come out of a can of hairspray. But they can also come from nature — from plankton in the ocean, palm trees in the Amazon or pine trees in North Carolina. These natural aerosols, and man-made aerosols such as diesel engine exhaust, can have hazardous effects on the climate and public health all around the world.

Vizuete captures aerosols from around the world and brings them back for testing in his lab at the Gillings School. He uses high-performance computers and 3D simulations that model the atmosphere to re-create atmospheric exposures to better predict the chemical responses of aerosols.

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