Fall 2012

Phil Stevens Phil Stevens

SPEA’s Air Repair Guy

As a teenage boy, Phil Stevens wished he could have his own TV.

So he figured out how to repair a broken set in the basement. Soon he was watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the comfort of his own room.

Channel-surf ahead three decades, and this same urge to tinker, along with a Rudy Professorship he received this April, is helping Stevens conduct important research. Named for IU alumnus James H. Rudy, who left most of his estate to IU, the Rudy Professorship aims to reward and retain outstanding faculty members.

Stevens is a leading scholar in the field of atmospheric chemistry. His research will help guide policy makers and government regulators working to improve air quality and mitigate climate change. Key to this research is an instrument Stevens built for his lab, a Rube Goldberg-esque complex of tubes and wires, compressed gas canisters, and lasers.

Known as IU-FAGE (Fluorescence Assay by Gas Expansion), the instrument measures atmospheric hydroxyl radicals, extremely short-lived molecules that consume pollutants and greenhouse gases and transform them into other compounds that lead to the formation of smog. There are just a dozen such instruments in the world. Thanks to Stevens, IU has one of them.

“Our current focus is on understanding the chemistry related to the production of ozone and fine particles, the primary components of photochemical smog,” he explains.

IU Fage
The IU-FAGE may not look like much, but it is one of only a dozen such instruments in the world.

Despite its delicacy, IU-FAGE is one well-traveled instrument. For field research, Stevens and his graduate students pack it onto carts, roll it down the hallway, and drive it to monitoring sites as diverse as Mexico City or the Michigan forest.

Stevens’ research also has an immediate impact in the classroom. “It keeps my teaching fresh,” he says. And that shows. Stevens has received six teaching awards since joining the faculty of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 1995.

“In my classes on air pollution, I can give students real-world illustrations of how research in this area can lead to the development of new strategies for improving air quality,” he says.

Stevens became hooked on research chemistry as an undergraduate at Oberlin. He earned his doctorate in atmospheric research at Harvard, where he was part of a group whose work proved that CFCs had caused the ozone hole.

Since coming to IU, he has secured grants from preeminent organizations such as NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, affording his students opportunities to participate in national and international research projects with colleagues across the globe.

The Rudy Professorship will support Stevens’ research students over the summer and enhance his work in the classroom for years to come. You can create opportunities at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs through your philanthropy, too.

For more information, contact Karrie Zuccarello, director of development, at 812-855-6802 or at .

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