Washington People: Jay Turner

Clearing the air

Jay Turner with student
Jay Turner, left, works with doctoral student Pradeep Prathibha. (Photo by Ron Klein)

As a high school student sailing under clear skies on the San Francisco Bay, Jay Turner would gaze toward shore, gauging weather conditions by watching the banks of fog high on the city’s hillside.

Later, as a University of California, Los Angeles, freshman in 1980, he noted the similarity as he stood on the docks in Marina del Rey and spied the smog east over Los Angeles. But as he sailed into the Pacific Ocean and peered back at shore, he realized the smog also blanketed the marina he had just left.

The smog wasn’t just inland. It was everywhere.

“You realize you’re in it, too, and that visual perception of your local environment did not completely align with reality,” recalled Turner, now an associate professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Engineering & Applied Science. “That was a moment that moved me.”

That experience, along with a research opportunity at UCLA in his sophomore year, propelled Turner into a lifelong career studying air quality in locations as close as St. Louis and as far-flung as Hong Kong.

It has also led to a 23-year teaching career at Washington University, where Turner recently was appointed vice dean for education in the School of Engineering. In the new role, he will lead the schoolwide effort to enhance the undergraduate student experience in what to teach and the best way to teach the next generation of engineers and leaders, Dean Aaron Bobick said.

To read the full profile, visit the engineering website.

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