hero image
Neil Donahue - Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA, US

Neil Donahue

Professor | Carnegie Mellon University


Neil Donahue's research examines the behavior of organic compounds in Earth’s atmosphere.


Neil Donahue directs the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research. He seeks to understand how Earth’s atmosphere works, and how humans affect the atmosphere. Donahue’s research examines the behavior of organic compounds in Earth’s atmosphere, studying what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently, his research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health.

Areas of Expertise (5)


Atmospheric Chemistry



Organic Aerosol

Media Appearances (5)

Indiana plastics fire raises worries about health dangers

The Seattle Times  online


Any significant disturbance, such as a structural failure, can release microscopic asbestos fibers, said Neil Donahue, a Carnegie Mellon University chemistry professor.

view more

‘Smokeageddon’ was unprecedented. We can expect more of the same.

WGN-TV  online


Neil Donahue, a chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon University, greeted the haze with sad irony. Pittsburgh was once the Smoky City, its dramatic features blurred by perpetual soot from steel mills and coal plants.

view more

Toxic gases connected to Ohio train derailment cause concern

AP News  online


Neil Donahue, a professor chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in nearby Pittsburgh, said he worries that the burning could have formed dioxins, which are created from burning chlorinated carbon materials.

view more

In a wild first, physicists used lasers to control lightning on a mountaintop

Inverse  online


Many mysteries remain in the physics of how lightning emerges, Neil Donahue, an atmospheric physical chemist from Carnegie Mellon who wasn’t involved in the new study, tells Inverse. “We for sure can't predict when and where a lightning strike will occur,” he says. “So something like this could be a useful tool in a scientific toolkit to explore this stuff.”

view more

CMU Offers New Additional Major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Carnegie Mellon University News  online


Neil Donahue is the director of the Steinbrenner Institute and the Thomas Lord University Professor in Chemistry with appointments in chemical engineering and engineering and public policy.

view more





loading image loading image loading image loading image loading image


Neil Donahue on Environmental Science: Atmospheres Neil Donahue


The super-sleuth who spots trouble in science papers, and the puzzle of urban smog


Industry Expertise (2)



Accomplishments (4)

Carnegie Science Award, Environmental Award (professional)


ACS Pittsburgh Award (professional)


Carnegie Institute of Technology Outstanding Research Award (professional)


Esselen Award (professional)

2017 Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society

Education (2)

MIT: Ph.D., Meteorology 1991

Brown University: A.B., Physics 1985

Affiliations (1)

  • American Geophysical Union : Fellow

Articles (5)

An intercomparison study of four different techniques for measuring the chemical composition of nanoparticles

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

2023 Currently, the complete chemical characterization of nanoparticles (

view more

Molecular Understanding of the Enhancement in Organic Aerosol Mass at High Relative Humidity

Environmental Science & Technology

2023 The mechanistic pathway by which high relative humidity (RH) affects gas–particle partitioning remains poorly understood, although many studies report increased secondary organic aerosol (SOA) yields at high RH. Here, we use real-time, molecular measurements of both the gas and particle phase to provide a mechanistic understanding of the effect of RH on the partitioning of biogenic oxidized organic molecules (from α-pinene and isoprene) at low temperatures (243 and 263 K) at the CLOUD chamber at CERN.

view more

Sulfur Dioxide Transported From the Residual Layer Drives Atmospheric Nucleation During Haze Periods in Beijing

Geophysical Research Letters

2023 New particle formation (NPF) is a global phenomenon that significantly influences climate. NPF also contributes to haze, with pronounced negative impacts on human health. Theory and observations both show that nucleation is favored during clean days and inhibited during haze episodes due to a high pre-existing condensation sink (CS). Here we show that the surprising occurrence of NPF during haze days in Beijing is associated with a high concentration of sulfuric acid dimers.

view more

Environmental Science: Atmospheres at year two

Environmental Science: Atmospheres

2023 At Environmental Science: Atmospheres we are starting our third volume as a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry Environmental Science journal family. Our founding aspiration was for each of our articles to change the way you think about atmospheres. I believe we have accomplished this. Articles are well written, present new science, and are being read.

view more

The effect of COVID-19 restrictions on atmospheric new particle formation in Beijing

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

2022 During the COVID-19 lockdown, the dramatic reduction of anthropogenic emissions provided a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of reduced anthropogenic activity and primary emissions on atmospheric chemical processes and the consequent formation of secondary pollutants. Here, we utilize comprehensive observations to examine the response of atmospheric new particle formation (NPF) to the changes in the atmospheric chemical cocktail.

view more