By Mary Catherine Frantz, intern, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

After participating in a summer research program, Yoni Rodriguez, along with two other WSU students, had the chance to present their results at the Annual Meteorological Society conference in Austin, Texas. This summer, he’s back in the lab.

Building Educational Tools for Future Researchers

Working with Von Walden, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rodriguez, a biochemistry major, presented his work on the creation of an interactive educational module based on air quality sensors and data.

The research is part of a smart city technology project centered around Spokane, Washington. Rodriguez’ lab module provides students with hands-on engineering, computer programming, and research development skills as they use real-time air quality data to develop their own experiments.

Rodriguez first began his project as part of a summer research experience program in WSU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research.

Career and life-long contacts

The AMS conference is the largest yearly meeting for the weather, water, and climate community in the world. It gathers researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines. Attendees make career-long professional contacts and life-long friends while learning from industry leaders. Rodriguez stresses the importance of collaboration.

“Meeting people who are doing similar research opens up the door for future collaboration,” he said. “It allows you to ask questions and increase your knowledge in an organic way.”

This was Rodriguez’s first conference.

“The environment was incredibly welcoming — everyone there is really supportive,” he said. “I never imagined I would be a part of something so big.”

Rodriguez works with sensors in the lab.

A family doc who understands air quality

The research has also sparked new passion in Rodriguez. He hopes to continue attending conferences, sharing his research and learning from others, as well as using his data to make real changes.

“My research experience was a huge motivation to dive into the applications of my work in the classroom and teach others about the issues surrounding air quality,” he said.

Rodriguez hopes to incorporate research into his future career as well. When he graduates from WSU, he plans to attend medical school to become a family physician. Someday, he would like to bring some of the research that he did into a future medical practice in his hometown of Yakima, Washington, using sensors and information on air quality to help patients.

“At WSU, you have the opportunity to do something bigger than you could ever expect,” he said.


Rodriguez also recently received a “novice” award for his engineering research at WSU’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA).