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Altadena Resident to Lead NASA-Funded Project Inspiring STEM Pursuits at Cal State LA

Published on Friday, December 15, 2023 | 5:59 am
 

Dr. Arezoo Khodayari, an Altadena resident who’s Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Cal State LA, is the principal investigator for a groundbreaking project funded by NASA that aims to foster student engagement in NASA research and steer them towards degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

The project is a collaboration among Cal State LA, Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Cal Poly Pomona, according to a recent Cal State LA press statement. 

Dr. Khodayari will steer the initiative, titled “Diversifying Student Pipelines in STEM: Environmental Pollution Reduction Inspired by Planetary Science.”

“This grant will bring exciting opportunities for our students and our college, and I hope this will lead to inspiring our students and cultivating them to make significant impacts in STEM fields,” Khodayari said. “I’m thankful for all the support from my collaborators.” 

The $570,000 grant, spanning two years, is part of NASA’s Bridge Program, strategically designed to bolster diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the NASA workforce and the wider U.S. science and engineering community.

The project’s focus is to amplify Cal State LA’s research capacity by establishing partnerships with JPL collaborators, opening up multiple research avenues for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM disciplines relevant to space exploration.

In addition, a series of workshops and training modules, devised by the project’s co-investigator at Cal Poly Pomona, will concentrate on optimal practices for mentoring students hailing from diverse backgrounds.

Dr. Khodayari has a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering from universities in Iran. She obtained her MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering from  University of Illinois where she was also Postdoctoral Research Associate in Atmospheric Sciences. Her expertise lies in crafting sustainable engineering solutions to combat environmental pollution. 

She is the founding director of the Environmental Sustainability and Pollution Control (ESPC) research lab at Cal State LA, whose work is focused on developing sustainable engineering solutions for pollution prevention and control, quantifying air quality and climate effects of natural and man-made emissions, environmental impact assessment, environmental sustainability, and energy-water-climate nexus.

Dr. Khodayari said the multidisciplinary research project will draw from the study of planetary science to tackle environmental pollution in the communities.   

“Some of the major questions that scientists try to answer in planetary science include the conditions and processes conducive to the origin and early evolution of life on Earth, and what they teach us about the possible emergence and evolution of life on other worlds,” she said. “Expanding our knowledge about these conditions and processes could teach us a lot about the principles governing the interconnected system of man and nature – leading to innovative engineering designs.”  

Aside from her research, Dr. Khodayari teaches Environmental Mass Transfer and Environmental Transport in graduate school, and Environmental Engineering and Energy and Environmental Sustainability among undergraduate students.

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