UCLA Fielding School of Public Health postdoctoral scholar Dr. Haoxuan Chen, whose research focuses on the complex interaction between the human respiratory system and the external environment, was selected to receive the prestigious Sheldon K. Friedlander Award from the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR). The award, presented October 3 at the AAAR’s 2023 Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon, recognizes an outstanding dissertation in a field of aerosol science and technology by an individual who has earned a doctoral degree. Sheldon K. Friedlander (1927-2007), after whom the award was named, was a leading aerosol scientist who was the UCLA Parsons Professor of Chemical Engineering.
For Chen, a researcher in UCLA Fielding’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, the Friedlander Award comes only a few months after he earned a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship from the University of California Office of the President’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) as the principal investigator of “Characterizing the Lung Deposition of Electronic Cigarette Aerosols Using an Artificial Lung System.” The ongoing study received approximately $300,000 in funding support.
“Receiving the Sheldon K. Friedlander Award from AAAR and the prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from TRDRP this year is an immense honor that resonates deeply with me,” Chen says. “These recognitions are not merely accolades, but affirmations and encouragement of my dedication to the interdisciplinary field of environmental health sciences.”
In his research, Chen aims to understand the impact on human health of inhalation exposures to aerosols from various sources, including environmental pollutants, industrial emissions, and the aerosols produced by tobacco and electronic cigarettes. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the significance of these issues, given that the virus spreads primarily through aerosol inhalation. In addition to COVID-19, environmental exposures play a pivotal role in respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.
Chen explores the exhaled breath, which also consists of aerosols, as a window into understanding these effects on human health. His research demonstrated the rapid detection of COVID-19 infection using exhaled breath, suggesting a potentially powerful tool to safeguard public health in future epidemics and pandemics.
“Dr. Chen’s innovative doctoral dissertation has paved the way for advanced strategies in air toxicity analysis,” says Dr. Yifang Zhu, UCLA Fielding professor of environmental health sciences, who is Chen’s postdoctoral supervisor. “His research, particularly significant during the COVID-19 crisis, demonstrated the exceptional potential of using breath-borne biomarkers combined with machine learning for rapid and accurate virus screenings. Dr. Chen’s intellectual curiosity, passion for research, strong work ethic, ability to quickly grasp new techniques, and leadership aptitude highlight his standing as a distinguished young scholar poised for significant future contributions to environmental health research.”
Chen expressed his gratitude to Zhu for her guidance in shaping the trajectory of his research and dedication to improving public health. “These honors inspire me to continue my scientific journey with even greater zeal and purpose,” he says. “They represent an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the fields of aerosol science and public health, making a lasting impact on the well-being of communities, both locally and globally.”