Albert Presto is a 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
Google Scholar
Albert Presto
Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS)

Monitoring Air Quality Worldwide

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

The Guardian

Presto quoted on inequality of air pollution exposure

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted by the Guardian on how people of color are historically more likely to be exposed to harmful air pollution. “People of color are more likely to be living near an industrial area or highway, and therefore have higher exposure.”

CMU Engineering

Democratizing air quality data at nearly no cost

Using existing filter tapes collected by U.S. embassies in Africa, mechanical engineering researchers have found a way to measure black carbon concentrations in fine particulate matter with only a reference card and their cell phones.

CMU Engineering

Albert Presto named director of CAPS

Albert Presto has been named the director of the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS) at Carnegie Mellon University.

NBC News

Presto collaborates on Ohio train derailment research

MechE’s Albert Presto collaborated on new research regarding chemicals released during the Ohio train derailment, finding high levels of acrolein.

CBS News KDKA Pittsburgh

Presto discusses health concerns of Canadian wildfires with KDKA CBS News Pittsburgh

MechE’s Albert Presto discusses the health concerns associated with the Canadian wildfires with KDKA CBS News Pittsburgh. “All the activities that contribute to that baseline that we already have are still happening. We’re still burning fossil fuels. We’re getting this wildfire smoke on top of our normal load,” he says.


Presto discusses mask efficacy for wildfire smoke and smog

MechE’s Albert Presto says that although disposable face masks may help block some particulate matter from wildfire smoke, it’s not the most effective option.

Pittsburgh City Paper

Presto quoted on Allegheny County air pollution

MechE’s Albert Presto was quoted in the Pittsburgh City Paper on the impact of industrial pollution in Allegheny County.

NBC News

Presto talks about the chemical effects of the East Palestine train derailment

MechE’s Albert Presto talks to Fortune and NBC News about the aftermath of the East Palestine train derailment and the chemicals’ effects on the town’s residents.

CMU Engineering

Improving air quality in Africa

CMU-Africa, CMU-Pittsburgh, and global collaborators create an air quality testing center in Ghana with new funding from the Clean Air Fund.


Presto comments on the Ohio train derailment in CNN

MechE’s Albert Presto talks to CNN about the Ohio train derailment and the environmental effects the accident has caused.

CMU Engineering

New air quality data from East Palestine, Ohio

Data provided by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Texas A&M University.


Presto quoted on new ethane cracker

MechE’s Abert Presto was quoted about air quality in the Allegheny Front’s article about residents’ concern over the new Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County. Presto’s research group has installed monitors near the cracker.