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Clarkson University's Philip Hopke Delivers Distinguished Lecture at University of Minnesota

Hopke weighs in on air quality regulations.

Uwe Kortshagen and Philip HopkeThree days before being honored as professor emeritus at Clarkson University, Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor Emeritus Philip K. Hopke made a quick trip to the University of Minnesota to deliver the LM Fingerson/TSI Distinguished Lecture.

An eminent scientist, Hopke spoke on the development of air quality legislation and regulations in the United States. He has been studying ambient particulate matter for more than 45 years. Among his myriad posts and honors, he is the past chair of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and has served on the EPA Science Advisory Board. Hopke also is a past president of the American Association for Aerosol Research, and was a member of the more than a dozen National Research Council committees. He serves on the NRC’s Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology.

“I've been involved in the policy side of air pollution since the early 1980s,” he says.

He related a tragic lesson that sparked interest in air quality: In 1952, more than 10,000 people in London died when December weather conditions combined with pollutants from combustion of low-quality coal to create a toxic cloud that was called “The London Fog.” That incident led a shocked United States to pass the Clear Air Act in 1963, followed by amendments in 1970 and the imposition of the first National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 1972.

“Since then, there have been substantial improvements in ambient air quality leading to improved public health and diminished environmental impacts,” Hopke notes.

Don't rest easy, though. The thrust of his lecture in Minnesota questions what effect science has on public policy. His perspective is formed by the more than 30 years he served as an industry consultant, a member and then chair of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and as someone who has studied ambient air quality.

“My bottom line was that science drives public policy when it agrees with what the regulatory agency has already decided to do,” Hopke notes. “Otherwise, the science is not deemed viable.”

While the U.S. has come a long way regarding air quality, other nations are obviously struggling. China is one example.

“The government there is about to put out its next five-year plan, and air pollution will be on the top of the list of issues to tackle. The question is, how much money are they really willing to put toward solving it. There's not a great mystery as to what needs to be done, but the costs of implementing air quality controls are easier to account for than the benefits. No one goes to the hospital with a note on their forehead saying, 'I'm sick from air pollution,' ” he points out.

Hopke was also recently selected as deputy editor of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (JESEE). A peer-reviewed journal that is published six times a year, JESEE presents research important to exposure assessment for toxic substances, environmental epidemiology that includes a strong exposure analysis component, and related disciplines that advance the exposure assessment process. It also publishes original research.

“Exposure science developed as a separate discipline about 30 years ago as people recognized we need to better understand how we interact with the environment, and the relationship between contaminants in the environment and health impacts,” explains Hopke.

What's next for Hopke? Retirement looks a lot like his regular schedule. He already has working assignments lined up this summer in Bangkok and Barcelona.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor Emeritus Philip K. Hopke recently delivered the Fingerson/TSI Distinguished Lecture at the University of Minnesota. Left to right: David Pui, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and L M Fingerson/TSI Chair in Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota; Beau Farmer, chief technology officer at TSI Inc.; Uwe Kortshagen, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and department head of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota; Hopke; Leroy M. (Mike) Fingerson, endowment provider; Ruth Fingerson; and Jerry Bark, VP of Product Management at TSI Inc.

[A photograph for media use is available at]

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