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The National Academy of Sciences and The National Academy of Engineering

Science & Engineering Ambassadors

The National Academy of Sciences and The National Academy of Engineering: Science & Engineering Ambassadors

Neil Donahue


Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering and Director, Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University

I want to understand how Earth's atmosphere works, and how we affect the atmosphere. I am a Professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Engineering and Public Policy at CMU. I also direct the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research. One of my objectives is to help all graduating CMU students understand the climate problem and to apply their outstanding problem solving skills to solutions of this enormous challenge. I am a member of numerous professional societies, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and an editor with several academic journals.

Our research group focuses on the behavior of organic compounds in Earth's atmosphere. We are world experts in studying what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently our research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health. Particles scatter light, influence clouds, and kill roughly 50,000 people each year in the US, mostly of heart attacks.

My father taught physics at Pitt, and I received a degree in physics from Brown University in 1985. I received a doctorate in meteorology from MIT in 1991, and spent nine years as a research scientist at Harvard before returning to Pittsburgh in 2000. I live with my wife Maren Cooke and daughters Kielan and Innes in Squirrel Hill. We have three kW of photovoltaic solar panels on our roof. I am also an avid road cyclist; you may find me on one hill or another around town.