Clean air is a public health passion for COPH alumnus Haofei Yu

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“The impact of air quality on humans and our environment led me to public health,” said August 2013 USF College of Public Health PhD graduate Haofei Yu, who studied environmental health in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

A native of Pingdingshan, Henan Province, China, Yu is from a nation notorious for air pollution amid its new rush of industrialization.  Not surprisingly, Yu has a passion for air quality, and while it may be the worst on the planet in his home country, he knows that air quality matters everywhere and can be at risk anywhere, anytime.

Haofei Yu, PhD.

Haofei Yu, PhD, MPH

That’s why, among his numerous activities as a COPH doctoral candidate, Yu founded the USF chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association, participated in Health Research Day and volunteer events, and made good use of a pair of graduate student challenge grants.

And speaking of a pair: He met his wife, Xiao Liu, also an EOH PhD candidate, at the department’s front desk, courtesy of an introduction by Nolan Kimball, EOH academic services administrator.

Yu began his academic career in China, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering from Hangzhou Dianzi University in July 2005, then followed up with a master of science degree in environmental engineering from the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology in July 2008.

But the culmination of his education would be at COPH, and it appears he has no regrets.

“I enjoyed my time at COPH,” Yu said.  “I very much like the friendliness of the staff and faculty.  The biggest challenges for me were culture and language differences between here and China.  I very much appreciated every faculty and staff member at EOH, especially Dr. Amy Stuart, my doctoral advisor.  She is an amazing professor.  I very much appreciated her patience and guidance for me while I was at COPH.

“In addition,” he said, “I also appreciate all the staff at human resources, especially June Lake.  I love her smile very much!”

Presently a post-doctoral RA in the Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he recently received an outstanding performance award, Yu is working with Dr. Alex Guenther on developing high-resolution land-cover data and estimating biogenic volatile organic compounds from vegetation.

“Many may not know,” he said, “that VOCs emitted from plants play a very important role in atmospheric chemistry and climate change.  In addition, these VOCs involve a photochemical reaction that leads to the formation of ground-level ozone and tiny particles that are harmful to human health.”

Yu continues his connection, albeit mostly long-distance, with COPH.  He said he is working with Stuart, an associate professor in EOH, to publish a few papers based on his previous work.

Asked if he could change one thing at the College of Public Health, Yu’s pride for his third alma mater is obvious.

“Build a bigger building and a big tower on top,” he said, “and put it in the middle of the campus so everyone will see it all the time.”


Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health.