Logo: University of Southern California

Professor Sioutas awarded prestigious Sinclair Award

Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Constantinos Sioutas rewarded for his research in aerosol science.
By: Erin Rode
December 18, 2014 —
Professor Constantinos Sioutas’ “sustained excellence” in aerosol research earned him this year’s Sinclair Award

In image-conscious Los Angeles, residents sometimes complain about the ugly smog that obscures otherwise breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.

However, Viterbi’s Professor Constantinos Sioutas worries more about the brown stuff’s detrimental health effects. Sioutas’ expansive research, which recently earned him the Sinclair Award, aims to measure and reduce the impact of air pollution on human health worldwide. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution caused approximately 3.7 million deaths worldwide in 2012 alone.

Sioutas is just the 26th person to receive the David Sinclair Award, which “recognizes sustained excellence in aerosol research,” specifically, research that leaves a lasting impact in aerosol science. The award is given for a string of impressive accomplishments.

“This award means a lot to me, the recognition is nice because it fuels my motivation,” Sioutas said.

His life is full of impressive accomplishments, from the start of his career at Harvard School for Public Health to his time as co-director of the Southern California Particle Center. Sioutas’ past awards have included the 3M Circle of Technical Excellence Award in 1991, and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award in 2000, among others. His work served as a basis for his 250 authored publications, is cited a whopping 12,000 times by other scientific publications, and is the subject of over 20 dissertations by Ph.D. students.

“I am especially happy for my students, not only because they contributed to this award through their hard work and dedication, but because coming from a group that is associated with this world-class distinction will help them as they go forward,” Sioutas said.

In all of his research, Sioutas focuses on one main goal: applying the relationships between negative health effects and sources of air pollutants to the area of air quality and urban planning.

“Specifically, my goals include advocating the development of sustainable urban living by improving non-traffic public transportation, and rethinking of urban areas, minimizing daily commuting, and developing pedestrian zones, like in many European cities,” Sioutas said.

Recently, Sioutas conducted research that showed that pollutant levels from freeways reach the surrounding area within 150 to 300 meters. The research prompted the state of California to adopt new policies of building new high schools at a protective distance from freeways.

For Sioutas, part of the “lasting impact” mentioned in the Sinclair Award has been mentoring and assisting the next generation of aerosol scientists.

“While our research can often become very detail-oriented when it comes to methodologies, [Sioutas] always persuades us to make sure we are not getting lost in the details and to critically think about the practical and real-world implications of the questions that we try to answer, which I think is the most important thing I’ve learned as his student,” USC Viterbi Ph.D. student Arian Saffari said.

Added Sioutas: “Young people need to be inspired by their professors to discover what they are passionate about; this is the best avenue to becoming not only successful, but also happy.”