Student studies how to clean indoor air during wildfires

Student researchers are an integral part of the Healthy Buildings Research Lab run by Elliott Gall, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering in PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. This summer the lab was bustling with activity as two graduate students and two undergraduates studied ways to clean air inside homes during wildfires.

While conducting experiments, students learn laboratory protocols, data analysis skills and state-of-the-art analytical chemistry and mechanical engineering techniques, setting them up for future research and engineering careers. 

“I’ve learned how to process data, how to calculate a clean air exchange rate, and that working in a lab is really, really fun,” says Baorong Luo, a Portland Community College student who plans to transfer to PSU next year. “You grow so much.”

Luo spent the summer studying how air cleaners can reduce indoor air pollution from wildfires as part of PSU’s REU program and says she really enjoyed being part of the research team and working with Elliott Gall.

“He has a sense of humor, and he’s really nice,” she says. “He wants to teach you everything so clearly, and he won’t get mad if you mess things up.”

Student researchers in the Healthy Buildings Research Lab are encouraged to share what they’ve learned in the lab by presenting at scientific conferences and through outreach events and talking with colleagues at the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Board of Health.

Luo got first-hand experience communicating about her research when she presented her results at a symposium at the end of the summer.

“At first I was really nervous, but it actually went great,” she says. “And I was able to answer all the questions.”

Now she’s even considering switching her major from biology to mechanical engineering or computer science, and she’s excited to get more lab time when she starts at PSU.

“I’m definitely looking forward to more research experiences,” she says. 

Learn more about undergraduate research opportunities at Portland State.

Learn more about how the Healthy Buildings Research Lab is studying ways to clean indoor air during wildfires.