Logo: University of Southern California

April 10, 2012: What’s Next For The Environment

Press Release
Contact: USC News - 213-740-2215 or uscnews@usc.edu
April 10, 2012 —


CONSTANTINOS SIOUTAS is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Sioutas is studying the levels of potentially hazardous particulate matter in the air on Los Angeles freeways and comparing them to the levels on the county’s subway and light rail systems. Sioutas, who rides the Gold Line to work at USC every day, said that while he’s a supporter of public transportation in general, he believes the future lies in expanding the county’s rail system.

“There’s no other way. Buses are not the answer as they contribute to both traffic congestion as well as to air pollution,” he said.

Sioutas can be reached by phone at (213) 740-6134 (office), (626) 755-7642 (cell), or sioutas@usc.edu.

LISA SCHWEITZER is an associate professor with the USC Price School of Public Policy. She is an expert in transit policy and sustainability, and will be available to comment on public transit initiatives, including the proposed California High Speed Rail Line that is intended to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. Schweitzer can comment on the effect of politics on the rail project, including – based on the outcome of the November 2012 election – how likely it is that the rail line will be built as envisioned.

“The politics of it are degrading the engineering to the point where it’s not possible to be a world-class project,” she said.

Schweitzer can be reached by phone at (213) 740-3866 (office) or by email at lschweit@usc.edu.

SERGIO SANUDO-WILHELMY is a professor of biological sciences and earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He recently conducted a study of the ocean off the coast of Los Angeles to determine how effective the 1972 Clean Water Act has been. His findings, published online in Environmental Science and Technology last month, show a significant reduction in particulate toxic metal concentrations. In addition, dissolved concentrations are now in the same range as those measured off the pristine coastal environment of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

“I was expecting to see a decline, but I was not expecting to see that the numbers could be so low. That suggests that the environment is very resilient, once you remove the stressor,” Sanudo-Wilhelmy said.

Sanudo-Wilhelmy can be reached by phone at (213) 821-1302 (office) or by email at sanudo@usc.edu.

DAVID BOTTJER is a professor of biological sciences and earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Bottjer studies the geologic record for evidence of the effects of past global warming events and linked phenomena, including ocean acidification and the growth of oxygen-poor “dead zones” in the in the ocean. By understanding what happened during previous periods of global warming, Bottjer sheds light on what may occur this time around.

“If these experiments have been run in the past, why not take a look at how they turned out? Because we may be running the same experiments right now,” Bottjer said.

Bottjer can be reached by phone at (213) 740-6100 (office) or by email at dbottjer@usc.edu.

P. DANIEL DAPKUS is a professor of electrical engineering, materials science and physics and astronomy at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Dapkus is the Director of the Center for Energy Nanoscience (CEN), an Energy Frontiers Research Center established by the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with fellow USC professor Mark Thompson and colleagues at partner institutions throughout the country, he helps administer the research CEN investigators who are developing more efficient ways to turn light into electricity and electricity into light. CEN researchers are exploring the use of semiconductor nanostructures and organic materials to replace silicon in solar cells to make them cheaper and more efficient. They are also developing more efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs) to save some of the energy that is wasted in current forms of lighting (which represents 25 percent of all energy used in the U.S.).

“CEN researchers are addressing fundamental issues limiting the utilization of solar energy from solar cells and lighting from LEDs by developing new understanding of the root causes of device inefficiency and by developing novel, efficient and low cost device designs.” Dapkus said.

Dapkus can be reached at (213) 740-4414 (office) or by email at dapkus@usc.edu.

PAUL RONNEY is a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He designed experiments performed on the Space Shuttle to create the weakest and leanest flames ever recorded to provide a better understanding of gas explosions, which may lead to the construction of more fuel-efficient car engines. Ronney is also a member of the USC Energy Institute, a university-wide research endeavor aimed at generating short- and long-term energy solutions.

“Everybody loves to hate the internal combustion engine. Well, I’ve got news for you: internal combustion engines are the worst form of vehicle propulsion, except for all the other forms. I can’t believe how much energy some people waste in order to save a little fuel. For example, a hybrid SUV is like ordering a 10-course steak dinner with creme brule for dessert, then insisting on artificial sweetener in your coffee to cut calories – if you want to minimize, why start off by maximizing?” Ronney said.

Ronney can be reached by phone at (213) 740-0490 (office) or by email at ronney@usc.edu.

This press release is available on the USC Press Room website.