By Olivia Wrigley

Glenn Morrison’s childhood dream was to become a professional musician, but his father’s worry of becoming a “poor professional musician” led him to sign up for a chemical engineering degree at the University of California, San Diego, instead. His love for the chemistry of indoor environments, however, was sparked at the University of California, Berkeley upon reading Charlie Weschler’s “fantastic” 1992[1] paper on carbonyl species released by carpets and after surface chemistry with ozone.

Morrison remained at Berkeley for his PhD with Bill Nazaroff. Here, he took a more quantitative look into carpet and ozone chemistry, measuring yields of pollutants formed by carpets and making predictions to feed into a model. Morrison still likes to incorporate modelling in all of his projects. “If there isn’t a modelling component, I don’t feel like I know what is going on,” he explains.

Upon graduating, Morrison took up a postdoc at NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration). Working with Carl Howard, he studied ion molecule reactions in order to better understand new experimental techniques, with a particular interest in utilising the recently developed proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometer for indoor analysis.

Morrison then moved to what is now the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he would work for the next 16 years. Whilst he was in Missouri, Morrison led the ISIAQ society as their president, a role he found “very satisfying” despite its demanding nature. Morrison relished the opportunity to gather both junior and senior indoor air researchers in the same room, illustrating the value a society can have for junior scientists starting to build networks

In 2017, Morrison moved to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he is in the unusual position of not having any teaching commitments and instead can give research his full attention. Morrison’s main focus currently is how chemicals adsorb onto clothing, while sat in a wardrobe, and how this may enhance their dermal uptake. He collaborates with the Technical University of Denmark, which has the facility to work with human subjects and study the extent of exposure on health.

Morrison is also works within the Chemistry of Indoor Environments (CIE) programme funded by the Sloan Foundation. Involved since its creation, Morrison relishes the new research the Foundation has opened doors for and is particularly excited at the “magnification of meaningful communication” and data sharing it has facilitated.

Morrison’s current “pie in the sky” dream is for the indoor chemistry of a thousand homes and the health of their occupants to be monitored for 20 years or more, to allow us to truly understand the complexity of chemical mechanisms and interactions that occur and their impact on human health, because right now, “we don’t know, we only suppose”. It’s high time one of his dreams came true!

[1] Weschler CJ, Hodgson AT, Wooley JD. Indoor chemistry: ozone, volatile organic compounds, and carpets. Environmental Science & Technology. 1992 Dec;26(12):2371-7.