Mae Gustin - UNR's 2016 Research of the Year

Mae S. Gustin, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno

Mae Gustin's research into the release, measurement and impact of mercury in the atmosphere was the subject of international attention in 2015. As a United Nations treaty - designed to protect human health and the environment from the release of harmful mercury compounds - was considered, scientists and scholars in many countries turned to work conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno researcher and her team.

This example of the significance and quality of Gustin's continued research is one example of why the Foundation Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science has been named the University's 2016 Outstanding Researcher.

Mercury inputs into the atmosphere worldwide have increased several-fold in the past 150 years and Gustin says this historic trend requires a dramatic shift in thinking regarding the scientific community's understanding of atmospheric mercury and in the means by which it is measured.

Gustin has been with the College since 1994. Her primary research interest is the study of inorganic contaminants in the environment. Her recent work focuses primarily on understanding the chemistry and environmental fate of atmospheric mercury, and the sources of ozone and other air pollutants.

While this work has worldwide implications, Gustin, her team and her NRES faculty colleagues also place considerable focus on Nevada and the West. Gustin recently managed the Nevada Rural Ozone Initiative, a large project that measured ozone and other air pollutants across the state of Nevada.

"Her work is consistently rooted in conceptual models that she develops when planning projects, is characterized by creative approaches to conducting experiments and consistently results in high profile publications," Bill Payne, dean of CABNR, wrote in his nomination of Gustin.

"Just as she is dedicated to quality, impactful research, Dr. Gustin is devoted to the professional development and future careers of her students," Marc Johnson, University president, said. "She is most deserving of this recognition."

"With science as her platform, Dr. Gustin has explored often controversial concepts," Mridul Gautam, the University's vice president of research and innovation, said. "She has advanced the understanding and science of atmospheric contaminants and has made a lasting contribution to an important field of environmental science."

Much of the funding of Gustin's work is from competitive federal programs and subject to peer review. Her research has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Electric Power Research Institute, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and private industry.

Gustin earned her doctoral degree at the University of Arizona, her master's degree at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her bachelor's degree at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The University's Outstanding Researcher award has been presented annually since 1975. The honoree is selected by a committee of the five previous recipients and the honoree receives a $5,000 award.