Bronx Community College Professors and Students Spent a Month in India During Winter Intercession Mapping Air Pollution
Professor Neal Phillip, Chairperson of the Bronx Community College (BCC)/City University of New York (CUNY) Department of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Environmental Science, Professor Paramita Sen of the same department and Dr. Brian Vant-Hull of City College of New York (CCNY) were joined by 13 CUNY students, to conduct air pollution research in Mumbai and New Delhi, India for one month during December and January. The students represented 6 campuses with 5 from BCC and the other 8 from CCNY, Hunter College, Hostos Community College, Baruch College and New York City College of Technology. This was a paid internship for the students as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Internal Research Experiences for Students (IRES) $300,000 grant award awarded to both institutions with Professor Phillip as the Principal Investigator (PI) and Professor Sen and Dr. Vant-Hull as the co-PIs.
The CUNY team of students and professors conducted an air pollution research study in Mumbai and New Delhi, which are two of the most polluted megacities in the world. The CUNY team used LoraWAN sensors and other sensors mounted as backpack units to map the pollution on a micro-scale in both cities. These GPS enabled sensors could literally tell the pollution block by block as the CUNY team moved by foot through Dharavi slum and other underserved communities in the two cities. This has never been done in the past and is one reason why BCC received the NSF grant. The sensor package was designed jointly by the three PIs working with a private US company. India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi were the official collaborators on the NSF grant.
As part of the research project to understand the correlation of air pollution and weather parameters (wind speed, wind direction, temperature, etc.), the CUNY team installed two weather stations in Mumbai. One weather station was installed at the Governor of Maharashtra official residence in Mumbai, an Indian national heritage building. The other was installed at SNDT Women’s University, India’s first and largest university serving women. Plaques recognizing NSF, CUNY, along with the contributions of Dr. Phillip and Professor Sen and Dr. Vant-Hull, were installed in these two locations.
Professor Phillip, Sen and Dr. Vant-Hull also co-organized an International Climate Change Conference in Mumbai during their trip in conjunction with SKECT NGO and Thakur College of Science and Commerce. Welcoming video address was given by the governor of Maharashtra and presentations by the US Consulate in Mumbai officials, ISKCON official for worldwide temple development, video presentation from Australia and keynote address by Dr. Randa Rizk of the University of Cairo, Egypt. The CUNY students also presented on their air pollution.
The trip also included a visit to the ISKCON Gurukul orphanage at the Govardhan Ecovillage (GEV) in the rural Palghar district of Maharashtra where the CUNY students donated educational supplies and other gifts to the children and provide special meals and deserts. The CUNY students and faculty also engaged in an impromptu soccer game with the Gurukul kids which delighted everyone except the ISKCON monks sleeping in a nearby quarters. GEV was the host for CUNY’s first India Study Abroad program coordinated by Professors Phillip and Sen in 2019. Students also visited the famed Taj Mahal in New Delhi where they marveled at the architecture and the steeped history surrounding its construction about 600 years ago.
Professors Phillip and Sen had also received a $43,000 public diplomacy grant from the US State Department/US Consulate Hyderabad, India for a weather station and climate change literacy project in the three states of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India and had completed Phase I in September 2022. Phase II is scheduled for April 2023 during Spring Break. Just this past week they were awarded another $39,000 US State Department Public Diplomacy through the US Consulate in Mumbai for a similar project in five states in western India, including Maharashtra.
Dr. Phillip said, “This trip to India was an incredible opportunity for our students to meet with their peers and hear from the international scientific community about the impact of air pollution and climate change in Mumbai and New Delhi.”
“The world has become a smaller place. It is important for our students to experience firsthand the scientific, and geopolitical issues surrounding air pollution and climate change,” noted Professor Sen.
Jake Ortiz, one of the BCC students on the trip who is also head of the BCC Biology Club indicated “this was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I am so happy that BCC and other CUNY students had this opportunity to conduct research and to learn about the culture in India at the same time. I also absolutely loved the food.”
BCC’s work in India has put the College and University on the global map as an important, global research institution.