Professor’s research focuses on air pollution

Since he started teaching on campus seven years ago, Segun Ogunjemiyo
has focused his research on air pollution and controlling it.
Stephen Keleher / The Collegian

Geology professor Segun Ogunjemiyo has always adapted to the community he lives in. Wherever he goes he focuses his research on the needs of that particular community.

When Ogunjemiyo received his bachelor’s degree in his home country of Nigeria, he studied forests. Then he moved to Belgium for his master’s degree and shifted his interest to water transfer systems. Ogunjemiyo’s next stop was Quebec, Canada, where he received his Ph.D. in atmospheric physics from McGill University, where he analyzed interactions between the biosphere and the atmosphere.

Global warming became very important to Ogunjemiyo when he started teaching at UC Santa Barbara.

Seven years ago, when he took a position at Fresno State, he focused on the needs of this community.

“My colleagues wondered why I wanted to come here,”  Ogunjemiyo said. “They said things like, ‘It’s terrible, it’s highly-polluted.’”

According to the American Lung  Association, Fresno, Merced, Bakersfield, Porterville and Hanford make up five of the top 10 ozone-polluting cities in the U.S.

“I’m glad I came here because when I got here I realized this is one area that I really want to work on,” Ogunjemiyo said. “When you are a Ph.D. holder, you are trained to look at a specific area while at the same time you should be able to adapt to the need of your community.”

When he arrived at Fresno State there were no classes on air pollution and the level of student involvement in geology was non existent.

“I have a class I designed called air pollution geology,” Ogunjemiyo said, while sitting in his office surrounded by the deflated test balloons he and his students use to measure Fresno air quality.

Ogunjemiyo’s belief in hands-on experience is what led him to seek grants from National Science Foundation and United States Department of Agriculture to help get students that experience. He also partnered with others involved in the science department to give students internships in atmospheric studies measuring air quality in the valley.

“We send at least four students every year to the USDA atmospheric chemistry lab in Iowa for air quality training,” Ogunjemiyo said. “They go to the field. They go as far as Kansas to do measurements.”

Ogunjemiyo and his students also go to Hanford for a week at a time where they take measurements of the methane generated by waste ponds at dairies.

Ogunjemiyo said that there are indications that global warming and air pollution would be reduced if methane production was brought under control. The Fresno area has more dairies than anywhere else in the state, and measuring methane is the first step in controlling a serious problem that has far-reaching repercussions for all local residents.

“None of this existed before,” Ogunjemiyo said. “It is part of the contribution we are making to the air quality.”

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