Richard Ezike became a chemical engineer so that he could use his expertise tackle problems related to air quality. His PhD work focused on developing catalysts to help reduce dangerous emissions of nitrogen oxides from diesel-powered cars, and he also worked on catalyst development to convert carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to potential alternative fuels.
When asked what sparked his interest in addressing environmental and public health issues, Richard remarked, “When I was six years old, I was sitting outside of my family’s apartment when this large tractor-trailer came roaring through our neighborhood. I saw the truck spew thick black smoke into the air, and I immediately wondered what it would feel like to breathe that smoke. I did not like what the answer was. From then on, I got the environmental preservation bug. And it only grew as I matured and gained more education; eventually I realized that I could use my chemistry interests to protect the environment.” When Richard moved to D.C. two years ago, he started to think about the important role that policy plays for science and environmental issues, and learned about the opportunities for scientists like him to engage with policy.