ADEQ Scientists, ASU Grad Students Use Machine Learning to Explore the Big Questions of Ozone Formation

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ADEQ New Release on Ozone Formation

PHOENIX (Feb. 18, 2021) – Exploring the variables that contribute to ozone formation is the focus of a new partnership among ADEQ, the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and Amazon Web Services. ADEQ data scientists and meteorologists have teamed up with a cohort of W. P. Carey graduate students. The students are using this real-world learning experience as the capstone project for their Master of Science in Business Analytics program. Amazon’s machine learning workspace, SageMaker, is at the epicenter of the team’s work and discoveries.

“We’re glad to provide this learning opportunity to the students and we’re grateful for their energy and dedication to this important project,” said ADEQ Air Quality Division Director, Daniel Czecholinski. “Learning this new technology in this advanced workspace, creating new tools and training models, and learning about ozone and air quality through their conversations with our scientists are experiences they’ll be able to take with them in their professional careers.”

The Phoenix Ozone Variable Importance Analysis (VIA) project aims to develop a deeper understanding of ozone formation in Phoenix. Using a large collection of the agency’s ozone data with new technology and methods of analysis, as well as the skills and curiosity that each scientist and student brings to the table, the VIA project team will spend the spring semester analyzing data, developing new tools, running experiments, and training new models to learn what the data reflect. Subsequently, they will recommend areas of further study to support the agency’s larger goal of understanding what influences ozone, and how.

Improving the quality of our air always starts with a deep understanding of individual air pollutants. We want to know how and why they form, as well as what they do. We especially want to know how these pollutants impact human health and the environment. Our understanding of individual pollutants and other variables that work together to contribute to air pollution, such as ozone precursors, helps us find new ways to decrease concentrations of these pollutants in the air we breathe and take the necessary actions to mitigate their health impacts. 

“At the W. P. Carey School of Business, our master’s in business analytics program provides students with a comprehensive set of skills in analytics,” said Brett Duarte, PhD, assistant clinical professor and co-director of the MSBA program. “In their final semester, students participate in a capstone project, which is designed to be an experiential learning opportunity. Our partnership with ADEQ this semester has been invaluable in not only helping the students learn about air quality in Arizona, especially ozone, but also as an opportunity to learn and apply analytical tools and techniques to solve real world problems.”

As the students take their deep dives into the data, evaluate the performance of their experiments, and learn about the fundamentals of ozone, they are also learning valuable project management skills. ADEQ uses the Arizona Management System (AMS), based on lean management principles, that ensures projects and daily operations are efficient, quality-focused and low-waste. AMS also ensures continuous learning and process improvement. The students are encouraged to flag areas of the project that could be improved or streamlined. It is also encouraged to recommend modifications to enhance their understanding and improve project outcomes.

“This is the kind of partnership that provides value to everyone involved, especially our communities,” said Czecholinski. “We have a great team doing outstanding work, and we’re eager to hear what they’ve learned that will contribute to our work tackling the critical air quality challenges we face in Arizona. Because that is our commitment to our mission and Arizonans – to always improve what we know and what we do so that we can continue providing superior service to our customers.”

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