Jiachen Zhang

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Part-Time Lecturer of Civil and Environmental Engineering


  • 2019, Doctoral Degree, Environmental Engineering, University of Southern California
  • 2014, Bachelor's Degree, Atmospheric Sciences, Peking University


Dr. Jiachen Zhang will be joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Spring 2024. Her research group will investigate the interactions of air quality, climate, and society, quantifying the impacts of strategies aimed at mitigating climate change and air pollution.
Dr. Zhang holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from USC and a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Peking University. During her doctoral and postdoctoral studies, she utilized and enhanced various climate and air quality models to assess the environmental impacts of adopting solar reflective cool surfaces and promoting the adoption of renewable energy. Currently, Dr. Zhang is the manager of the Mobile Source Technology Assessment and Modeling Section at the California Air Resources Board, where she leads a team of scientists and engineers to conduct original research projects, develop emissions inventory, and inform first-of-their-kind policies aimed at promoting electric vehicles and reducing air pollution emissions. Dr. Zhang is also a part-time lecturer at the USC, teaching Air Pollution Fundamentals. Additionally, she chairs the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee of the Chinese-American Engineers and Scientists Association of Southern California and serves as the secretary of the Air & Waste Management Association West Coast Section.
Please contact her at jiachen.zhang@usc.edu if you are interested in joining her research group as a research assistant, PhD student, or postdoctoral scholar.

Research Summary

My overarching research objective is to better understand the interactions between climate, air pollution, and society, as well as to pursue engineering methods and policy measures to tackle climate change. I aim to advance a systems approach to assess the effectiveness of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as their air quality co-benefits and risks. At USC, I will establish a research group to conduct impactful research on the following three topics:

1. Climate and air quality impacts of changing land cover (e.g., adopting “cool” surfaces in cities): Adopting highly reflective “cool” coatings on buildings can help cities mitigate heat and adapt to climate change. Using a regional meteorology model (WRF) and an air quality model (WRF-Chem), I led the first study that systematically compared the regional climate and air quality impacts of adopting solar reflective “cool roofs” and “cool walls.” I also developed a statistical approach to analyze an earth system model’s (CESM) output and resolved the discrepancies among past studies on the global climate impact of “cool roofs.” Leveraging my WRF-Chem modeling expertise, I will mentor PhD students to study the effectiveness and impacts of other heat mitigation strategies (e.g., planting trees and changing building orientation) and develop a framework to evaluate which strategies would work best for different cities and communities. In the long-term, I plan to expand my research into the field of geoengineering and use CESM to assess the cost-effectiveness of different methods to reduce global temperatures.

2. Climate impacts and source attribution of black carbon aerosols: Reducing light-absorbing black carbon aerosols helps mitigate climate change while improving air quality and public health. I have led and advised students on multiple research projects studying the transport, transformation, and climate impacts of black carbon in the atmosphere, using CESM and a global chemistry transport model (MOZART). To further improve the representation of black carbon in models, I will calibrate atmospheric models against satellite and ground-based observations and explore the use of machine learning techniques to complement physically based atmospheric modeling.

3. Strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and transportation sectors: The energy and transportation sectors are two of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions causing global climate change. I believe building an interdisciplinary team is essential to developing innovative solutions to reduce their emissions. During my postdoc, I developed emissions inventories for multiple future energy supply and consumption scenarios, based on the outputs of energy demand and capacity models from collaborators at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). My findings ultimately helped the City of Los Angeles set its 100% renewable energy goals. At CARB, I led multiple projects related to the transportation sector, including analyzing big data from ride-hauling companies (e.g., Uber), projecting zero-emission vehicle market share using the California Energy Commission’s consumer choice models, and developing California’s official emissions model for vehicles (EMFAC). Using my experience with various models, I plan to develop an integrated model system coupling climate, air quality, emissions, economic, and travel demand models to study the effectiveness of different strategies in achieving air quality, climate, and equity goals.

  • Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Jiachen Zhang has not listed an office location.

Contact Information
  • jiachen.zhang@usc.edu


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