Albert Presto is an associate research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and a member of the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS). Presto’s research focuses on pollutant emissions from energy extraction and consumption and the subsequent atmospheric transformations that these emissions undergo. Energy production and consumption is a major source of pollutants and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Gas and oil wells emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Cars and trucks operating on gasoline and diesel fuels emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Particulate matter from mobile sources is largely the result of incomplete or inefficient combustion in the form of organic aerosol and carbon soot. In addition to the direct emissions of pollutants, dilute exhaust undergoes oxidation in the atmosphere. This oxidation chemistry can lead to the production of secondary pollutants, such as ozone and secondary particulate matter.

Presto investigates the contributions of primary and secondary pollution with ambient measurements, laboratory experiments, source testing of pollution sources, and atmospheric models. This multi-pronged and multi-disciplinary approach allows for a holistic view of pollutant emissions and transformations in the atmosphere.

In addition to having environmental impacts, these pollutants, particularly ozone and particulate matter, adversely impact human health. Presto collaborates with medical professionals to develop detailed studies of pollutant exposure on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, and to better understand the relationships between pollutant emissions and adverse health effects such as childhood asthma.

2115 Doherty Hall
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Albert Presto
Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS)

Albert Presto: Local Air Quality Monitoring for More Targeted Solutions

Atmospheric Impacts of the Marcellus Shale Boom


2005 Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

2001 BS, Chemical Engineering, Cornell University

Media mentions


Presto on reduced pollution

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted by WESA in an article discussing the impact of less traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presto found that less driving led to decreases in carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, as well as reduced fine particulate matter.


Presto quoted on pollution

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted in WESA on pollution during the coronavirus pandemic. The original research was done by Presto and MechE Department Head Allen Robinson.

Shared Air Podcast

Jen and Sullivan quoted on coronavirus

ChemE’s Coty Jen and MechE’s Ryan Sullivan appeared on MechE’s Albert Presto’s podcast, Shared Air, on the role of masks in the coronavirus pandemic.

CMU Engineering

COVID and pollution

A team of Carnegie Mellon researchers found that Pittsburgh’s air pollution levels decreased during the stay-at-home order—but the overall impact remains small.

Apple Podcast

Presto introduces new podcast

MechE’s Albert Presto has created a new podcast called Shared Air with MechE Ph.D. student Rose Eilenberg.

York Dispatch

Presto quoted on Pittsburgh air pollution

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted in the York Dispatch on changes in air pollution after the coronavirus shutdown.

90.5 WESA

Presto quoted on Pittsburgh pollution

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted by WESA about pollution since the coronavirus pandemic brought stay-at-home orders to Pittsburgh.

CMU Engineering

Study verifies a missing piece to urban air quality puzzle

CMU researchers get closer to solving a long-standing air quality mystery.

FutureTech Podcast

Presto on air quality research

MechE’s Albert Presto was a guest on the FutureTech Podcast and discussed his research in urban air quality. Presto was also featured in a PublicSource article asking experts about plastics and air quality.

Pittsburgh City Paper

Presto on fireworks pollution

Do Fourth of July fireworks contribute to pollution? MechE’s Albert Presto says yes, as they release fine particulate matter that is linked to asthma and heart attacks, but not at a significant level to cause worry. “The way a firework works, the reason it’s sparkling is that you’re burning something. So you get a little bit of particulate matter from shooting off fireworks, but it’s not a big concentration change,” said Presto.

Presto on steel factory’s fire and pollution

A fire broke out at a steel factory in Clairton, resulting in pollution alerts going out to nearby communities. “That area is one of the areas with the highest air pollution in the entire country,” says MechE’s Albert Presto, an atmospheric pollution expert. “This fire has contributed to it being even worse.”

Presto comments on lost productivity during shutdown

The 2018-2019 government shutdown halted a wide range of science-related agencies, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. MechE’s Albert Presto commented that losing a month in productivity can hurt scientists, especially those working on time-sensitive projects or just getting started.