North Park University receives $166k grant from NASA to install air quality sensors

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CHICAGO, Jan. 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — North Park University will install sensors that detect weather and pollution patterns as part of a $166,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The sensors will be installed atop the Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life on campus.

NASA awarded the five-year grant to North Park in part because of its federal status as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a school that is committed to equitable outcomes for Hispanic students. The two weather sensors will be installed by NASA this spring, and money from the grant will fund travel expenses and salaries for instructors and student workers. The equipment will be owned and maintained by NASA.

The grant was secured through the joint efforts of Assistant Professor of Chemistry John Randazzo and Director of Sponsored Projects Renee Cox. Only about 10 institutions across the country received the grant, and North Park is the lone Chicago site.

The environmental data gathered by the sensors will allow NASA researchers to monitor levels of atmospheric compounds such as carbon monoxide, along with particulate matters expelled by cars and factories. The data will also be compared to that acquired by satellites circling the earth to ensure accuracy. North Park students and professors will have access to that data, which will be transmitted directly into North Park’s classrooms.

“This is a powerful tool because it makes learning real,” Dr. Randazzo said. “The students can read the data and know that’s coming from just above their heads.” 

Randazzo said the NASA grant was likely to raise North Park’s profile as a research university.

“Building a face-to-face relationship with NASA raises our credibility and increases future prospects,” Dr. Randazzo said, adding that a NASA engineer will be speaking on campus in March.

Dr. Randazzo said he and Cox found the grant opportunity on a NASA list serve about a year ago, and although they ignore “99% of them” because they are not applicable, this particular grant struck them both because of North Park’s location and Dr. Randazzo’s background in atmospheric science.

The two worked together to apply for the grant, which they learned they’d won late last year.


North Park University is city-centered, intercultural, and emerging as the model for Christian higher education in 21st Century America.

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