The University of Utah’s College of Engineering welcomes associate professor Heather Holmes and assistant professor Tao Gao, two new faculty members who have joined the Department of Chemical Engineering. Both will add a tremendous amount of expertise and breadth to the department’s renowned faculty.

Heather-Holmes_250x350Heather Holmes received her bachelor’s degree from Montana State University and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Utah, all in mechanical engineering. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg and the Georgia Institute of Technology before becoming an assistant professor in the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2014.

She has an interdisciplinary background that includes mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, and atmospheric science. Her research group uses ground-based sensors, atmospheric models, and satellite remote sensing to investigate atmospheric physics, air pollution sources, transport and dispersion, and provide data for human health and public policy assessments. Her goal is to improve models used in air quality warning systems that protect people from poor air quality due to wildfire smoke and temperature inversions, both common in the western U.S. With funding from the National Science Foundation, she is developing new atmospheric models to improve air quality forecasts of wildfire smoke in mountainous regions. She also has funding from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the health impacts of wildfire smoke exposure in Reno, Nevada.

Tao-Gao_250x350Tao Gao earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. He conducted his postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His research addresses grand challenges in the Energy-Environment nexus using multi-scale electrochemistry. Currently, his focus is on energy storage technology for transportation, renewable integration and future robotics applications, and includes Li-ion batteries, Mg-ion batteries and flow batteries.

“We are so pleased that Heather and Tao have joined the Department of Chemical Engineering,” said department chair Eric Eddings. “Heather brings important and timely expertise that will complement our existing air quality and simulation research activities, and Tao adds an important new research area in terms of battery research and electrochemistry. We are benefiting greatly from their enthusiasm and energy and look forward to the positive impacts of their research and teaching.”

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