N.C. A&T Professor Co-organizes International Air Quality Conference in Ethiopia

By Jamie Crockett / 01/17/2024 College of Science and Technology

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Jan. 17, 2024) — Solomon Bililign, Ph.D., a professor of physics at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, co-organized the “Together for cleaner air in Ethiopia” international conference held at Addis Ababa University. The three-day conference hosted 80 attendees from Ethiopia, Europe and the U.S., including air quality researchers and regulators, health professionals, community members and policymakers. Lund University in collaboration with local universities also co-organized the conference.

The goal of the conference, held in December, was to bring experts together to share and discuss “research data on health impacts of air pollution, highlight the urgency for action and discuss the ways forward.” 

According to the 2022 State of Air Quality and Health Impacts in Africa report, “air pollution is the second leading risk factor for deaths” and “in 2019, air pollution contributed to 1.1 million deaths in Africa — of these more than 63% were linked to exposure to household air pollution.”

The conference’s opening session included remarks from the project’s principal investigator (PI), Christina Isaxon, Ph.D., the director general of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection authority, and other university and agency leaders. 

Subsequent sessions included keynote speakers, panel discussions and poster presentations that covered topics including air pollution assessment, perspectives for policymakers, satellite/remote sensing, challenges in conducting field research and indoor air pollution.

“Air pollution is a general issue in growing African cities and, historically, the continent has been the least studied in the world,” Bililign said. 

Bililign presented twice during the conference on the “Inseparable Link between Air Pollution and Climate Change – Cleaning the Air as a Strategy for Climate Mitigation” and “Low-Cost Filter Collection for analysis of Chemical Composition of Atmospheric Aerosols in Africa.” He also chaired the “Low-cost Sensors-Operation principles, limitations, calibration” session. 

Bililign’s N.C. A&T colleague, Marc Fiddler, Ph.D., also hosted a low-cost sensors and reference instruments tutorial with Haramaya University professor Kedir Roba, Ph.D.

“This conference is a continuation of the East African Air Quality Research Initiative. Next, in collaboration with United Kingdom scientists at York and Birmingham universities as lead and U.S. universities UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. A&T and Columbia, along with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, we are putting together a proposal for a large project to investigate air pollution in East Africa,” said Bililign. “The ultimate aim of the project would be to improve air quality models for the region and extend local capacity for measurements, modeling and supporting air quality policy development. We want to work closely with local partners on this and envision that one of the main parts of the project will be a major field campaign based partly in Addis Ababa and partly in Mombasa/Nairobi.”

Since 2019, Bililign has led or contributed to various activities associated with the East African Air Quality Research Initiative, including serving as chair of the January 2023 follow-up hybrid workshop at Carnegie Mellon University in Kigali, Rwanda and securing a National Science Foundation-funded proposal with UNC-Chapel Hill professor William Vizuete, Ph.D., for a September 2023 workshop that hosted participants from the U.S., Africa and Europe.

While heavily involved in international efforts to address climate change and air pollution, Bililign also serves as PI for the U.S. Department of Energy-funded three-year project to establish the Climate Resiliency Center in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina.

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu

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