Rare Research Enclosure Coming to University of Findlay

An Exciting Addition to UF

The University of Findlay takes tremendous pride in the amount of hands-on education, practice, and research made available to students, faculty, staff, and the community as a whole. In the next few months, the University will begin construction on a Temporary Outdoor Enclosure (TOE) lab, the sixth of its kind in the world, to aid in the research of pollutant effects on air.

Construction of the enclosure and research area is set to begin in June, 2020, and is expected to be completed by March, 2021. The structure will be located at University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center on Fostoria Avenue in Findlay for ease of access to readily available facilities and utilities. Funding for the project comes entirely from a subcontract between the University and ENSCO, Inc., a privately-held engineering, science, and advanced technology solutions company performing modeling and simulation studies for the U.S. Air Force. The funding will cover the entire project from the drafting of plans, sitework and grounds preparation, construction, ventilation, and electrical work.

How the Enclosure will Affect Research

This enclosure will allow for the study and examination of the connections between the environment and human health by helping researchers examine the effects of atmospheric processes on pollutants. By mimicking the natural environment in a controlled enclosure, variables such as natural sunlight and exact pollutant levels can be examined in realistic conditions.

Kim Lichtveld, Ph.D., and Seth Ebersviller, Ph.D., assistant professors of environment safety and occupational health (ESOH) management at the University, will be leading the research and assist in the planning of the project. Previously working with similar enclosures as research assistants during their time in graduate school at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lichtveld and Ebersviller are familiar with this type of research and how much opportunity this enclosure presents to UF. Lichtveld stated that the variety of research capabilities the TOE can provide, “extends from basic chemical characterization to applications in fields of agriculture, petroleum, manufacturing and defense. For instance, the effect of fuel formulations on combustion emissions can be studied (including alternative fuels).”

What this Means for the University

While enclosures such as this have been used extensively over the past 40 years for research purposes, they are incredibly rare. With five labs in the world having the capability of using actual sunlight to study atmospheric effects on pollutants, only about three are actively in use.

Having the TOE available for student and faculty research not only allows for hands on experience in environmental sciences, but also gives them the unique experience of conducting real-world research in an extremely unique environment. The University takes pride in being a leader in Environmental, Health, Safety & Sustainability (EHSS) programs at the collegiate level, and is excited to offer students, faculty, staff, and the community opportunities for research and field experience than ever before with the addition of the TOE. Lichtveld said “we plan on giving our students experience using the enclosure and analyzing the data in the ESOH 315, Environmental Sampling Course,” along with potentially working the enclosure and relative data into courses provided by the All Hazards Training Center.

While the TOE will primarily be used for UF student and faculty research, Lichtveld said she hopes to eventually open up research opportunities to, and potentially partner with, other, “industries and companies that can benefit from this science as they seek to enhance and protect their products and services.” She continued to explain that information gathered from the enclosure can, “be used to inform environmental modelers, industrial hygienists, chemists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, and military officials about chemical species present, so that they can make informed decisions.”