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07-08-2016

It's A Small World for Clarkson University's Hopke

For a while, earlier this year, Tsinghua University in China was looking like a reunion site for Clarkson University, thanks to the friendships and scientific collaborations established by Clarkson Professor Philip K. Hopke.

Left to right: Soodi Torkmahalleh, Mehdi Torkmahalleh, Yungang Wang, Hopke and YuanXun ZhangNow, officially the Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor Emeritus Philip Hopke, this scientist has traveled the world for years, sharing his expertise on air quality. He has taught, lectured, consulted, and performed research in China several times. This past March, he was able to mix business with pleasure when he encountered two of his former graduate students and a former colleague.

“Four or five years ago, I was involved in a project involving chromium 6 in airborne particles,” Hopke explains. “I also was involved with another student doing similar work at Rutgers University. When he finished, he did a post-doctoral study on indoor outdoor levels of particles at Tsinghua University. We did a paper together, and then the professor he worked with invited me to work in China for a month. So I spent this March in Beijing.”

When he got to Tsinghua University, Hopke was delighted to learn that Clarkson University Prof. Suresh Dhaniyala's student and current associate, Meilu He, came for a visit to give a talk. The next week, Mehdi Torkmahalleh and his wife, Soodi, and Yungang (Carl) Wang were also there to present talks. YuanXun Zhang, who lives nearby and works at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, joined them. That made for a reunion because Mehdi and Yungang were Hopke's Ph.D. students and YuanXun was prior CARES lab director at Clarkson.

“I'm trying to start interaction for the long run,” notes Hopke, who thoroughly enjoyed his time in China. “These are top students who are a lot of fun to work with. They have areas where they badly need to clean up the air. If I can help, I'm glad to. The China Branch of Clean Air Asia has now hired me as a consultant so I will have opportunities in the future.”

Hopke and other scientists are facing a huge challenge because cities in China are designed with large blocks of apartments, and they burn low-grade coal for heating that emits substantial quantities of pollutants. It's “pretty obvious” that one of the big problems is their building heating systems, Hopke says. Most of them were installed relatively recently, over the past 15 years, but they are not performing well and do not have control systems.

“They'll have to rebuild or switch fuels such as to natural gas,” he says. “They have to do something, that's for sure.”

Hopke has been traveling the globe since Clarkson's May commencement, much the same as he always has. Along with his work in China, he has been to Bangkok and Barcelona this summer and he continues with environmental projects in Rochester, N.Y., and in Washington, D.C., where he works with the Department of State.

As for retirement, he says, “Once people know you're available, your time fills up quickly.”

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: During a recent trip to China, Clarkson University Professor Philip Hopke met up with a number of former students and colleagues. Left to right: Soodi Torkmahalleh, Mehdi Torkmahalleh, Yungang Wang, Hopke and YuanXun Zhang

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/phopke-china-2016.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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