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Exposure Research

Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Staff

Robert Willis

Title: Research Physicist

EPA Division: Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences Division

EPA Branch: Environmental Characterization and Apportionment Branch

Robert’s research focuses on applications of electron microscopy to environmental forensics. He manages the NERL Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Laboratory and leads NERL’s nano Cerium fuel additive research effort. Robert develops SEM-based passive aerosol samplers and computer-controlled SEM techniques and conducts field studies to identify and understand pollution sources. His research interests include characterization of particulate matter, source apportionment, linking PM to human health effects, aerosols and climate change, and nanomaterials.


  • Ph.D., Physics, Duke University, 1977
  • B.S., Physics, Denison University, 1970

Professional Experience:

  • Research Physicist, USEPA, ORD, NERL-HEASD, RTP, NC 2005-present
  • Science Advisor, Alion Science and Technology, Inc., RTP, NC 2005
  • Principal Scientist/Research Scientist, ManTech Environmental Technology, Inc., RTP, NC 1992-2005
  • Senior Scientist/Scientist, Atom Sciences, Inc., Oak Ridge, TN 1983-1991
  • Assistant Research Physicist III/II/I, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA and Guest Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 1979-1983
  • NRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC 1977-1979

Professional Societies and Affiliations:

  • American Physical Society
  • American Association for Aerosol Research

Select Awards and Honors:

  • USEPA NERL Special Achievement Award, 2011
  • USEPA ORD Bronze Metal, 2005
  • ManTech Environmental Technology, Inc., President's Award for Excellence, 2001
  • ManTech Environmental Technology, Inc., Performance Incentive Program Award, 1993, 1997
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Select Presentations:

  • Willis, R., Bunker, K., Lersch, T., Casuccio, G., Grulke, E., Mandzy, N., Conny, J., Lewandowski, M., Weinstein, J., Krug, J., Kovalcik, K. Physicochemical Characterization of Cerium Particles Generated by Combustion of Ce-Doped Diesel Fuel, presented at the American Association for Aerosol Research Conference, Minneapolis, MN, October 8-12, 2012.
  • Sawvel, E., Ault, A., Grassian, V., Kumar, N., Peters T., Casuccio, G., West, R., Willis, R., Norris. G. Composition of Coarse Particulate Matter (PM10-2.5) in Cleveland, OH, presented at the American Association for Aerosol Research Conference, Orlando, FL, October 3-7, 2011.
  • Lewandowski, M., Offenberg, J.H., Kleindienst, T.E., Kovalcik, K., Willis, R.D., Docherty, K., Pancras, J.P.,Jaoui, M. Influence of Nano-Scale Cerium Oxide Fuel Born Catalysts on Primary and Secondary Particulate Matter from Diesel Exhaust, presented at the American Association for Aerosol Research Conference, Portland, OR, March 22-26, 2010.
  • Willis, B., G. Norris, T, Watkins, E. Sawvel, D. Boysen, N. Kumar, T. Peters and G. Casuccio. Characterization of Coarse PM Using Passive Samplers, presented at the 2009 National Ambient Air Monitoring Conference, Nashville, TN, November 2-5, 2009.

Select Publications:

  • Ault, A.P.; Peters, T.M.; Sawvel, E.J.; Gary S. Casuccio, G.S.; Willis, R.D.; Norris, G.A.; Vicki H. Grassian. Single-Particle SEM-EDX analysis of iron-containing coarse particulate matter in an urban environment: sources and distribution of iron within Cleveland, Ohio, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 4331-4339 (2012).
  • Majestic, B.J., Erdakos, G.B., Lewandowski, M., Oliver, K.D., Willis, R.D., Kleindienst, T.E., Bhave, P.V. A review of selected engineered nanoparticlesin the atmosphere: sources, transformations, and techniques for sampling and analysis. Int. J. Occup. Environ. Health.16:483 (2010).
  • Zota A.R., Willis R., Jim R., Norris G.A., Shine J.P., Duvall R., Schaider, L.A., Spengler, J.D. Impact of mine waste on airborne respirable particulates in northeastern Oklahoma, United States. J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc. 59:1347 (2009).
  • Kellogg, R.B., Willis, R.D. Library optimization in EDXRF spectral deconvolution for multi-element analysis of ambient aerosols. X-ray Spectrometry, 38:283 (2009).
  • Arku, R.E, Vallarino, J.,Dionisio, K.L., Willis, R., Choi, H., Wilson, J.G., Hemphill, C., Agyei-Mensah, S., Spengler, J.D., Ezzati, M. Characterizing air pollution in two low-income neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana Science of the Total Environment. 402:217 (2008).
  • Rosati, J.A., Bern, A.M.,Willis, R.D., Blanchard, F.T., Conner, T.L.,Friedman, D. Multi-Lab testing of a screening method for World Trade Center (WTC) collapse dust. Science of the Total Environment. 390:514 (2008).

Published & Presented Research (1999-Present)

Contact Info:
Robert Willis
Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Division
National Exposure Research Laboratory
US EPA Office of Research and Development
109 TW Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Telephone: 919-541-2809
Email: willis.robert@epa.gov

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