Chemist to discuss climate change science and policy

Contact: Deanne Puca
Photo of Marsha Lester.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A researcher who studies chemistry important in the atmosphere, including molecules responsible for neutralizing pollutants, will be meeting with students and addressing the public when she visits Western Michigan University next month.

Dr. Marsha I. Lester, professor of chemistry and the Edmund J. Kahn Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, will be on campus Thursday, Nov. 10. Lester is a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society.


While on campus, Lester will be involved in three events that are free and open to the public:

• An informal talk titled "Climate Change Science and Policy: A conversation with Marsha Lester" at noon in Knauss Hall's Center for the Humanities.

• A meet-and-greet reception at 4:30 p.m. in the Chemistry Building foyer.

• A public lecture on "The Atmosphere's Detergents" at 5:30 p.m. in 1260 Chemistry Building.

Marsha Lester

A founding member of the Penn Forum for Women Faculty, Lester is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She also has worked as chair of the Department of Energy's Council for Chemical and Biochemical Sciences.

She has made significant strides in understanding rapid atmospheric reactions and the molecules associated with them. Understanding exactly how these reactions proceed is critical for predicting how the atmosphere will respond to environmental changes. In 2014, Lester and her research team members at Penn became the first people to observe a rapid atmospheric reaction in the lab.

They identified an important intermediate molecule and tracked its transformation to hydroxyl radicals, highly reactive molecules that are called the "atmosphere's detergent." Their findings help explain how the atmosphere maintains its reserves of hydroxyl radicals. Many common pollutants and greenhouse gases, such as methane and more complex hydrocarbons, are initially broken down by these radicals.

Lester's WMU visit is being made possible by major support from Phi Beta Kappa and WMU's Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Department of Chemistry, Center for the Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Studies, and Lee Honors College.

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