John Watson Profile Photo
Dr. John Watson
Research Professor, Atmospheric Science

Professional Interests

Dr. John G. Watsons research includes: 1) evaluating, characterizing, and advancing methods to measure carbonaceous material in suspended particles; 2) developing and applying real-world, multipollutant emission measurement technologies; and 3) designing and conducting aerosol characterization, source apportionment, and adverse effects studies. His recent projects involved real-world emissions testing in the oil sands region of northern Canada, engine exhaust characterization in Hong Kong, commercialization of a multi-wavelength thermal/optical aerosol carbon analyzer, and designing air quality measurement networks in developing countries. Current projects include evaluation of microsensor/smartphone interfaces for detecting intermittent fugitive emission, increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of particulate matter and visibility measurement systems, determining changes in aerosol chemical and optical properties with atmospheric aging, and quantifying atmospheric contributions to stormwater runoff.. These projects involve supervision and mentoring of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

Dr. Watson was principal investigator or co-investigator for more than 120 major and minor air quality studies. These include: 1) real-world emissions characterization in the Athabasca Oils Sands Region of Canada; 2) the Fresno Supersite; 3) the California Regional PM10/PM2.5 Air Quality Study (CRPAQS); 4) the Department of Defense (SERDP) diesel source characterization study; 5) the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Study and Atmospheric Utilities Signatures, Predictions and Experiments; 6) the Imperial Valley/Mexicali Cross Border PM10 Transport Study; 7) the Mt. Zirkel Visibility Study; 8) the Northern Front Range Air Quality Study; 9) the Mexico City aerosol characterization study, 10) the California Acid Deposition Monitoring Program; and numerous smaller studies. He has participated in PM2.5 and PM10 control strategy development in various western states. He developed EPAs Chemical Mass Balance receptor modeling software and prepared EPA monitoring guidelines for PM2.5 and PM10.National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Stemming from his service in the U.S. Peace Corps, Dr. Watson has cultivated relationships with scientists and regulators in rapidly industrializing nations with particular emphasis on China, India, and Mexico. He has hosted three Fulbright Fellows from India, involving them ongoing projects and assisting them in aerosol studies and publications relevant to their regions. In 1998 he established a collaboration with the Institute of Earth Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xian, where is currently an Adjunct Professor. An aerosol sampling and analysis capability similar to that at DRI was created and is being used to better target the causes of air pollution in Chinese cities and evaluate the effectivess of emission controls. Over the past r0 years Dr. Watson has organized and presented mini-courses and symposia related to aerosol measurement and source apportionment in various parts of China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, various parts of India, Viet Nam, Egypt, South Africa, Mexico, and Chile. As a journal editor, he has placed special emphasis on assisting foreign scientists to publish technically sound and useful articles.

Dr. Watson has authored or co-authored more than 415 peer-reviewed journal publications, more than 200 chapters published in books and conference transactions, and more than 290 technical reports. He is one of 250 highly-cited authors in the energy and environment section of ISIHighlyCited.com and is isted in the 2021 Stanford Universitys Top 2% of Most-Cited Scientists. Dr. Watson co-chaired the National Academy of Engineering panel on Energy Futures and Urban Air Pollution Challenges for China and the United States and was a member of the National Academy of Science panel on New Source Review for Stationary Sources of Air Pollution. He authored the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) 2002 critical review on Visibility: Science and Regulation, the 2017 critical review on Air quality measurementsFrom rubber bands to tapping the rainbow, and has served on the A&WMA Critical Review committee since 1982. Dr. Watson is fluent in the English and Spanish languages.

Research Areas

  • Source Apportionment
  • Visibility
  • Particle Sampling and Analysis
  • Field Study Design and Management
  • Motor Vehicle and Fugitive Dust Emissions



Degree Year Institution Area
Ph.D. 1979 Oregon Graduate Institute (now Oregon Health and Science University) Environmental Sciences
M.S. 1974 University of Toledo Physics
B.A. 1970 State University of New York at Brockport Physics


Air Quality, Chemical Mass Balance, Emission Inventory, Particulate Matter, Receptor Modeling, Source Apportionment, Source Characterization, Visibility