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A Breath of Fresh Air: Meet Professor Julian Marshall

September 1, 2016


A Picture of Julian Marshall
Julian Marshall

Professor Julian Marshall is mindful about how his choices affect air quality. Given his air pollution research, he can’t help it. Marshall commutes by bicycle, makes sure his house is properly insulated and sets his thermostat to an optimal setting. But he envisions a world where it is easier for people to make choices that lead to cleaner air.

“I am hopeful that in future years more choices will be environmentally friendly,” Marshall said.

Marshall joined the UW Civil & Environmental Engineering Department in February 2016 as the John R. Kiely Endowed Professor. He comes to UW after nine years at the University of Minnesota, where he founded and directed a Peace Corps Master’s International program in environmental engineering and also co-founded Acara, a social entrepreneurship program offering courses and study abroad programs to help students learn about and devise solutions to global environmental and health problems such as clean water, sanitation and food security.

Marshall’s decision to join UW CEE was based in part on the UW’s strong reputation in air quality engineering and the collaborative atmosphere at UW in air quality and public health. After accepting the position, Marshall shared the news with his graduate students, who decided to join him at UW; his four graduate students and a staff scientist also relocated to Seattle.

Marshall is not a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest. He attended elementary school in Bellingham, Wash., before moving to New York, and he spent summers in Sandpoint, Idaho, while growing up. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Princeton University, Marshall moved to California and worked as an air quality modeler at an environmental consulting firm. Wanting to see the world, he later moved to Singapore, where he taught junior college, followed by a six-month stint volunteering at an environmental development group in India. Submitting applications from rural India, he received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources.

Following his Ph.D., Marshall’s first job in academia was at the University of British Columbia, where he worked as a post-doc in epidemiology. There he learned more about health effects of air pollution, especially how reductions in air pollution can improve public health. Marshall is especially interested in how demographic attributes such as race and income affect exposure levels, and the environmental health impacts of shifts in energy technologies, such as converting coal to solar electricity, or gasoline and diesel to biofuels and electric vehicles. Marshall has found that some so-called solutions, such as biofuels, can adversely affect air pollution and health compared to the conventional fuels they may displace. Marshall is also involved in multiple collaborative projects in India to understand the health effects of air pollution there, including the potential impacts on indoor air quality of interventions such as introducing new cook stoves into households.

“One of the goals of my research is to propose and test potential solutions to air pollution,” Marshall said. “Overall, our aim is to reduce health impacts from air pollution, especially for groups who are already highly impacted.”

Marshall and colleagues recently received a $10 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate air pollution. In collaboration with more than 25 researchers from the University of Minnesota, Carnegie Mellon University and several other universities, Marshall is co-leading a new Air Pollution, Climate, and Energy center. The researchers seek to find “win-win” solutions that address multiple air pollutants and climate change at the same time. They plan to investigate region-specific solutions, reflecting geographic differences across the United States, and solutions that could help address the current disparities in air pollution exposure by race/ethnicity. They will work to develop data and models that are more accessible to non-specialists.

“We are thrilled at this funding from EPA,” Marshall said. “It will allow us to design and test new approaches for addressing air pollution in the U.S., and to keep environmental justice and public access to data at the core of what we do.”

Marshall’s wife, whom he met when they were both undergraduates at Princeton, has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and works as an editor for a chemistry magazine. The couple has three children: seven-year-old twins (one boy and one girl) and a 20-month-old son. In their spare time, Marshall and his wife enjoy biking, hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.