Elizabeth Stone honored with Van Allen Natural Science Award

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Betsy Stone

Elizabeth Stone, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the 2018-19 James Van Allen Natural Sciences Fellowship, a competitive award designed to encourage and support work in the physical, natural, and mathematical sciences. The $15,000 Van Allen award is one of two UI faculty fellowships awarded in alternate years, the other being the May Brodbeck Humanities Award.

Professor Stone’s long-term research goal is to improve understanding of how human activity contributes to degradation of air quality. During the fellowship period, she and her research team will focus on developing better ways to trace the source of a certain group of atmospheric aerosols: secondary organic aerosols (SOA) derived from chemical compounds released by the use of fossil fuels.

Particulate matter in the air adversely affects human health, but scientists have yet to fully understand all of its sources. Source “tracers”—molecules that help researchers identify the source of aerosols—have been well-developed for SOAs generated from natural gases, but the effort has lagged behind for SOAs emerging from human activities, such as those derived from fossil fuel use. Developing and evaluating new tracers of SOAs is critical to accurately quantifying their impact relative to other forms of aerosol-based pollution.

Professor Stone’s project aims to identify a set of effective tracers and then use them, in a study of selected urban and suburban environments, to improve measurement-driven estimates of SOA and its precursors. Ultimately, better understanding of the sources of aerosols will inform new pollution mitigation strategies and efforts to improve air quality.

Stone received her undergraduate degree in chemistry and French from Grinnell College and her Ph.D. in environmental chemistry and technology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A member of the UI faculty since 2010, she received the University of Iowa Early Career Scholar of the Year award in 2015, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Outstanding Outreach and Public Engagement Award in 2017. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Iowa Academy of Science.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 68 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.