My research interests
My professional interests fall into three broad categories: trace elements in the environment, scientific writing, and the JFK assassination. These categories are briefly discussed in this order.
Trace elements in aerosols
For 25 years, I and associates have been measuring the elemental composition of atmospheric aerosols by means of neutron-activation analysis. I now have a collection of data from sites in North America, Europe, Asia, the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, and the Arctic. The sites, which are a mixture of mine and others, now number about 100. At a typical site, up to 40 or so elements have been measured. Numbers of samples per site range from tens to hundreds. These data will eventually appear on this web site.
Trace elements in precipitation
Similarly, I and associates have been interested in elemental data from precipitation. We have data from three major sites in northeastern North America where we also have data for aerosols. Precipitation was collected in such a way that the resulting elemental data would be directly comparable to those of the aerosol. This approach has seldom or never been taken elsewhere.
Trace elements in streams
With Steven Hemingway, I collected data on trace elements in Rhode Island streams. They were used to study dry deposition of aerosol by using the mass-balance approach for an entire watershed.
Trace elements in biomonitors
For the past two years or so, I have become involved in helping European colleagues interpret their elemental data for lichens and mosses. For this work, I have used the graphical approach mentioned below, and have been assisted by Suilou Huang in applying PMF factor analysis to the same data. The results are very promising and are beginning to appear in publications.
Graphical analysis of elemental data
I have developed a new method for determining the elemental compositions for major sources of aerosols graphically. The first article is due to appear in Atmospheric Environment in late 1998 or early 1999. I believe that this technique will be much used in the future. It can also be applied to precipitation, biomonitors, soils, rocks, coals, and various other environmental media.
Suilou Huang and I have been quantitatively investigating the performance of the new Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) method of factor analysis developed by Dr. Pentti Paatero of the University of Helsinki. A first article on the subject will appear in Atmospheric Environment in early 1999. In a word, PMF outperforms conventional factor analysis by an order of magnitude or so, especially for elements with minor loadings in factors. It is most impressive.
For the last several years, I have been offering a graduate course in scientific writing at URI's Graduate School of Oceanography. The text for that course has recently become a set of class notes that now numbers 450 pages and continues to grow. Some remarks on those notes will soon appear under OCG533 of this web site. I try to be as rigorous as possible in my approach to teaching scientific writing, to the point of including considerable original material on structures and syntax. The students rise to the challenge and love the course.
The JFK assassination
Believe it or not, there are scientific issues surrounding the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in November 1963 that both hold the key to understanding it and remain improperly resolved. As time permits, I have been addressing these issues since 1992. I have given two honors courses in the assassination here at URI, and in spring 1999 will give an upper-level course on the subject in the Department of Political Science (PSC482G). Few people realize how important physics, chemistry, and mathematics are to understanding what happened that terrible day.
With trace elements, scientific writing, and JFK, I keep busy, productive, and fulfilled.
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