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Science Wednesday: OnAir – Veteran Chemists Form Lasting Bond

2009 December 23

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

On a recent visit to the Southern California Particle Center, amidst the cold sterility of lab equipment and the drone of machinery, a feeling of warmth was palpable. I was there to discuss organic chemistry and toxicology and learn about chemical processes, but couldn’t help noticing something else.

As director John Froines and lead investigator Art Cho discussed their latest scientific findings, references to their strong friendship and deep appreciation of working together repeatedly crept into the conversation. When asked separately about personal investments in the Particle Center, each immediately referenced the other.

image of Art Cho speaking“John and I can sit and talk. He’s also an organic chemist… so we can talk in a common language,” Cho said of the pair’s hours-long daily conversations about chemistry and science.

The Particle Center is an air pollution research consortium funded by a multi-million dollar EPA grant. Scientists at the Center are encouraged to work collaboratively to address questions about air pollution exposure that have real world significance, especially in Los Angeles, where the Center is based.

But to these scientists, their work is more than a just a job. Over and over, each emphasized the personal satisfaction gained through years of intellectual partnership.

image of John Friones sitting and speaking“Art Cho is 81. I’m 70. Do you realize the joy that we have, two of us old chemistry codgers, being able to do the science in a multidisciplinary way?” Froines asked, rhetorically.

Cho echoed the sentiment, expressing his enthusiasm with an inescapable air of academia.

“I’m having fun, as it were,” he mused.

At 81, Cho is still working as a full time lead investigator in his UCLA labs. When the subject of potential retirement was broached, Froines jumped in on Cho’s behalf without hesitation,

“Don’t you even…” he warned with a grin, “…that word is forbidden!”

Whoever said research science was an antisocial career path has clearly not met these chemistry vets. As I proceed on my travels, I’ll continue sharing stories of the cast of characters that study the air we breathe.

About the Author: Becky Fried is a student contractor with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, part of the Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    December 23, 2009

    I don’t know you are forgotten or not, you should ask to them, when they felt the moment what they thought there are barriers between young scientists and their seniors ? Each discipline beginning from its seriously to make over to wise philosophies, like Mr. Cho & John …..

  2. Bob permalink
    December 23, 2009

    Thanks for the article i just got done reading :)

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    December 24, 2009

    Its great to have such important facilities and great people here in southern California. But we need them. southern California is one of the worst air quality regions in the country. More is coming out on the impacts of air pollution on people living by major highways and major indistrial activities like trainyards and ports. 60% to 80% of the most harmful chemicals in air pollution come from diesel fuel cumbustion. The California Air Resources Board has a study that came out in November that shows pregnant women who live close to major highways are alot more likely to experience miscarrages than those who don’t. The California Air Resources Board will be releasing another study in January that links air pollution exposure and living close to major highways to an increase in deaths from cardiovascular problems, Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Charlie permalink
    December 28, 2009

    Speaking as a chemist, it might be fun to ask Art Cho & John Froines what type of chemical bond they would use to describe thier relationship: covalent, ionic, Van der Wals, etc.

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