Investigator Update: Dr. Armin Sorooshian

This update features Dr. Armin Sorooshian, University of Arizona (UA) Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and UA Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) investigator on our aerosol Project “Prediction and Properties of Airborne Dust Arising from Mining Operations”. Sorooshian’s body of work focuses on the effects of aerosol particles on air quality, climate change, hydrological/nutrient cycles, and human health. In particular, Sorooshian’s UA SRP project is evaluating how aerosols interact with water to better understand exposure to inhaled toxicants in the lung. To this end, he has 1) has developed a measurement instrument called the Differential Aerosol Sizing and Hygroscopicity Spectrometer Probe and 2) has conducted a unique set of ground and airborne based experiments over the past few years. According to Dr. Sorooshian: “The research we are doing is important to try to reduce uncertainty as to how natural and anthropogenic emissions affect the public health as well as the planet’s energy budget and rainfall patterns.”    

Here we highlight one paper in particular: Sorooshian et al., (2012). Hygroscopic and chemical properties of aerosols collected near a copper smelter: Implications for public and environmental health, Environ. Sci. Technol., 46, 9473-9480. This paper is the first report of simultaneous measurement of size resolved chemical and hygroscopic properties of particles next to an active copper smelter and mine tailings deposit. It is forming the basis for our understanding of the relative contributions that inhaled particulates from mine sites have to overall health risks of those living near such sites. This work will also have more general implications for the relative importance of how behavior of any aerosol impacts inhalation as an exposure route as dust particles do not have to be associated with contaminants to cause health impacts.

As another example of Sorooshian’s novel research, his instrumentation and aircraft happened to be nearby during the July 2016 California Soberanes Fire, one of the costliest wildfires on record. As captured by a Monterey Herald news article titled, “Soberanes Fire Creates Rare Opportunity for Atmospheric Researcher”, Sorooshian was able to make a unique set of measurements on how the smoke plume impacted the nearby clouds and the chemical signature of particles in the air. “That field project was one of those rare cases where a significant wildfire erupted literally just down the road from where our aircraft was stationed and so we could do a lot of interesting measurements.” stated Sorooshian.

In 2016, Sorooshian received three professional honors that included the Spirit of Inquiry Award (UA Honor’s College), Faculty Fellows Program (UA), and the Distinguished Scholar Award (UA). The latter award is given to mid-career faculty who are considered leading experts in their fields and also innovators in teaching and outreach. The award winners are selected by a campus wide committee of Regents’ and Distinguished Professors and are provided with $10,000 in addition to the distinction. UA SRP Trainee Alex MacDonald was present at the award ceremony and stated, “It’s a real privilege to have Dr. Sorooshian as my PhD advisor. I like how his research spans the whole aerosol spectrum, from interactions with clouds to deposition in human lungs.”

Sorooshian also has been busy writing grants and manuscripts. He successfully submitted an Office of Naval Research proposal, “Detailed Studies of Aerosol, Droplet, and Cloud Processes in the Marine Atmosphere.” This is a $500,000, three-year grant that will aim to advance knowledge of nature and evolution of clouds, fog, and particles in the marine boundary layer. In addition to grants and peer-reviewed journal articles, Sorooshian has also collaborated with the UA SRP Community Engagement Core as an expert reviewer of the “Outdoor Dust” community information sheet available on the UA SRP website.

UA SRP Director Dr. Raina Maier states: “Armin’s ability to build instrumentation and then apply it to ask unique questions has already positioned him as a world leader in aerosol research at this early stage of his career. We are fortunate to have him as a member of the UA SRP.”