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05-10-2009

California Institute of Technology Professor Receives Clarkson University Honorary Degree

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/seinfeld.jpg ]

John H. Seinfeld, the Louis E. Nohl Professor in the Divisions of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology, received an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University’s 116th Commencement today.Seinfeld

The degree was awarded for his "significant contributions to our understanding of the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, including his pioneering work in aerosol climatology."

Seinfeld addressed the graduates, saying, "In a time when the only sources of scientific information for many people are radio talk shows and internet blogs, it is a responsibility to inform the public about what is understood about complex issues that involve science and technology.

"I have carefully thought through how to explain the evidence for human-induced climate change. One-by-one, none of the other factors that could lead to the observed temperature change even comes close to the effect of greenhouse gases.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009, when you receive your degree today, you are destined to help others who haven’t been here and who are never going to be here -- to understand the workings of nature and the ingenuity of human technology."

Seinfeld is widely acknowledged for his contributions to our understanding of the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, including the development of the first models of the urban atmosphere; the elucidation of the formation, growth and dynamics of atmospheric aerosols; and the role of aerosols in climate.

He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1967 and joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology that same year.

His early focus on the interaction of aerosols -- the microscopic airborne particles and droplets that drive the atmosphere’s chemical processes -- allowed him to integrate many complex variables that influence air quality. This work, and an exceptional mathematical talent for differential equations, led to his landmark 1972 papers on mathematical models for air pollution. From these came the first urban air quality models incorporated in the Federal Clean Air Act and which today provide the basic tool employed by air quality managers worldwide.

One of the first scientists to describe the chemical processes producing urban ozone, Seinfeld has been a leading figure in scientific advances in understanding urban photochemical smog, acid deposition, tropospheric ozone depletion, the global influence of aerosols in cloud formation and the behavior of "greenhouse" gases. His influence on the direction of air quality research over the last 30 years has been profound. Through his leadership of the National Research Council Committee on Tropospheric Ozone Formation and Measurement, he refocused the atmospheric chemistry and regulatory communities away from control of volatile organic compounds to control of nitrogen oxides.

In 1982, at age 39, Seinfeld was the youngest person ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He is also a fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. His numerous awards and honors include the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology, the Nevada Medal, and the Fuchs Award of the International Aerosol Research Assembly, the highest honor bestowed for work in the field of aerosol science. He was chair of the NASA Working Group on Scientific Research Objectives in Tropospheric Pollution and served on the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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