NSF-IRES: U.S.-Bangladesh collaboration to improve air quality

Bangladesh University

Application of low-cost sensor technologies and satellite remote sensing

Department of Environmental and Sustainable Engineering

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

IRES UAlbany Flyer

Calendar for Summer 2024

  • Application Deadline: February 15
  • Notification to selected participants: February 23

The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES)
The program supports international research and research-related activities for U.S. science and engineering students. The IRES program contributes to development of a diverse, globally engaged workforce with world-class skills. IRES focuses on active research participation by undergraduate and/or graduate students in high quality international research, education and professional development experiences in NSF-funded research areas.

Brick Kiln Production smoke stacks in Bangladesh
Traffic jam in Dhaka City at night
Burning plastic causes tremendous air quality issues in Bangladesh. More than twice as bad as cities in the United States
Residential indoor air quality exposure in Bangladesh is a big problem in its cities. Crowded apartment buildings are pictured.

IRES Program


This project will provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students a ten-week summer opportunity to gain international research experience in emerging air quality issues in the megacity of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The project will take place in collaboration with students and faculty at the University at Albany, Stanford University, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and the University of Dhaka.

Students will get hands-on experience on low-cost sensors and remote sensing technologies to advance their understanding of air quality problems and potential solutions. Students will work on individual research projects and have unique opportunities to enhance their professional growth, peer-mentoring skills, networking and develop their competencies in intercultural communication, self-awareness, professional adaptability, and leadership in a culturally diverse group.

The experiences and lessons learned from a megacity’s impact on air quality can be valuable for the IRES students to study large U.S. urban centers confronting similar air pollution challenges.

Program structure

The project will train 24 U.S. students under a ten-week summer program over the 3-year period. Each year a cohort of 8 students (5 undergraduates and 3 graduate) will participate in four sets of activities:

  • pre-departure preparation during the Spring 2023 (virtual) for research meetings and language training
  • 2 weeks pre-departure virtual training activities (May 22 – June 2)
  • 7 weeks research activities in Dhaka, Bangladesh (June 12 – July 28)
  • 1 week (in-person) post-trip follow-up activities at UAlbany (July 31 – August 4)

Key activities include a streamlined two-week air quality short course, travel workshop, and research ethics compliance training during the 2-week pre-departure virtual training. The pre-departure training during the Spring 2023 will include bi-weekly research meetings to introduce students about low-cost sensor technologies, performance evaluation and air quality sensor data analysis, as well as weekly meetings for culture and language instruction. The 1-week post-trip follow-up will include report writing, presentation of their research findings and international experiences and field trips.

Financial Support

  • Stipend: $3,500 for undergraduates and $4,200 for graduate students
  • Travel: support for international and local travels
  • Subsistence: Housing and meals provided


  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Notification to selected participants: February 15, 2024



Dhaka, Bangladesh

Bangladesh is known for its vulnerability to climate change, consistently ranked as one of the most polluted countries. With more than 20 million people, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is an example of the most polluted megacities in the world.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) is the oldest and leading institution for engineering study in Bangladesh. The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering of BUET is a leading academic department in the country due to the outstanding graduates it is producing, its various research activities, and its extensive involvement in countless crucial national development projects. The Environmental Engineering Laboratory of the Civil Engineering Department is well-equipped with advanced facilities for water, wastewater, and ambient air quality research. It is a 2800 ft2 laboratory space located on the 3rd floor of the Civil Engineering Building. The Mentor Dr. Provat Kumar Saha has full access to all the facilities in this lab as a full-time faculty member of the department. Instruments in this laboratory include, among others, an Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer, a TOC analyzer, and a modern Spectrophotometer. Air quality measurement instruments include gravimetric samplers for particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), Condensation Particle Counter for measuring ultrafine particles, and Real-time, Affordable, Multi-Pollutant (RAMP) monitor for low-cost sensor-based measurement of PM2.5 and trace gases (CO, NO, NO2, O3).

IRES Site 1 Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology


University of Dhaka

University of Dhaka, Bangledesh campus building.

The Department of Chemistry, University of Dhaka is the leading research organization for atmospheric chemistry in Bangladesh. Dr. Salam has been leading the atmospheric science research with 25 group members and has been working on various aspects of air quality in Bangladesh with highly sophisticated instruments, e.g., Cimel sunphotometer (Robot), Aerosol Robotic network, NASA-USA. It has been measuring the intensity of sun at seven different wavelengths since 2013. It changes the direction automatically with the moving of sun and also upload data automatically to the AERONET website. Dr. Abdus Salam’s group has many other monitoring instruments (e.g., BAM 1020, Air Photon) and also several low-cost sensors (e.g., Air Visual). U.S. students will get the opportunity to learn from these long-term measurements in the highly polluted megacity of Dhaka.







This opportunity is available to undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields at U.S. institutions with following requirements:

  1. U.S.-citizen or permanent residents and must have full COVID-19 vaccination record
  2. Grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 for undergraduate and 3.0 for graduate applicants
  3. Must commit to being in Bangladesh for 7 weeks during summer 2023
  4. Available to attend Spring 2023 (virtual) for pre-departure preparation (research meetings and language instructions)
  5. Agree to participate in a follow-up research activity for Fall 2023

Students who are underrepresented minorities, women, first-generation/low-income students, Hispanics, and veterans as well as persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Preference will be given to juniors/seniors and graduate students major in Environmental Engineering or a related discipline (e.g., Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Chemistry, and Engineering in general).

How to Apply

  1. Complete an online application form.

    Undergraduate Application

    Graduate Application
  2. Submit copies of transcripts (a copy of unofficial transcript is fine).
  3. Provide one reference (e.g., your academic advisor). If shortlisted, we will contact for recommendation letter.
  4. Upload your resume.
  5. Provide a statement of purpose. Describe your academic and career goals, research interests, and how you believe the IRES program will help achieve your short- and long-term goals.
  6. Provide demographic information

Research Projects

IRES participants will work on research projects collaborating with the foreign mentors and students. The Principal Investigator and foreign mentors will offer numerous research topics at undergraduate and graduate levels. This helps students choose their individual research topics based on their interests. The nature of proposed research activities falls under a unifying research topic i.e., improving air quality in a megacity by leveraging recent advances in low-cost sensor and remote sensing technologies. The projects will be structured in such a way that both undergraduate and graduate students can feel confident that they can complete the proposed tasks successfully in due time. A brief description of sample research projects is given below:

  • Sample project 1: Development of a calibration framework for low-cost PM2.5 monitoring system in a megacity of Bangladesh. While low-cost sensor-based air quality monitoring shows great potential for spatially dense and community-scale air monitoring with a reasonable cost, their calibration and data inversion are the most critical aspect. The response of the low-cost sensors is highly sensitive to ambient temperature, humidity, pollutants mixture. High pollution loadings, local weather, and infrastructure conditions in polluted cities in developing countries present unique challenges for low-cost sensors calibration, deployment, and maintenance. The proposed work will develop calibration models and a standard operational procedure for low-cost PM2.5 sensors under a megacity-specific conditions.
  • Sample project 2: Coupling low-cost air sensors and satellite data for mapping brick kiln pollution in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the fourth largest brick producer globally with about 7000 brick kilns and produces about 23 billion bricks annually. Traditional energy-inefficient brick manufacturing kilns in Bangladesh and across South Asia kill thousands of people every year. Accurate mapping of the pollution scenario is the first step for developing science-based solutions and tools for addressing the brick kiln pollution in Bangladesh. We propose to combine low-cost fine particulate mass sensor and satellite-based observations for mapping surface PM concentrations in the brick-kiln pollution impacted areas in Bangladesh.
  • Sample project 3: Developing a low-cost approach for evaluating kiln level emissions in Bangladesh. Each year the global radiative forcing generated by the black carbon and greenhouse gases emanating from brick kilns in South Asia is equivalent to the climate impact generated from the entire US passenger car fleet. Recent estimates suggest that air pollution generated by brick kilns results in over 60,000 premature adult deaths annually in South Asia. We propose a set of iterative field measurements collaborating with Stanford University researchers to work towards developing a practical low-cost approach to evaluating pollution generated by individuals and groups of kilns.
    Saving Lives and Combatting Climate Change - YouTube

  • Sample project 4: Air pollution mapping in Dhaka City using low-cost sensors. Air pollutants in urban areas vary spatially and temporally. Numerous studies have identified that a central monitoring approach cannot capture the pollution gradient in urban areas and pollution concentrations can vary substantially within a few hundred meters. In recent years, the mobile and distributed monitoring with data science and machine learning approaches have been shown a great promise for high spatial resolution urban air pollution monitoring and exposure estimates. We will develop an empirical model and high spatial resolution air pollution mapping using lower cost sensor measurements and advanced statistical modeling approach.
  • Sample project 5: Understanding residential indoor air quality exposure in Dhaka using multipollutant sensors. Climate change can affect the air we breathe in both ambient and indoor environments. While government and regulatory agencies have focused to tackle urban ambient air pollution, little attention has been paid to assess the quality of air in our homes. To fill this gap, IRES participants will measure air pollutants in residential homes to get experience in assessing indoor air quality in a polluted megacity of Dhaka. Several criteria air pollutants e.g., fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO) and climate-driven pollutants e.g., black carbon and caron dioxide (CO2) will be measured using low-cost sensors.
  • Sample project 6: Monitoring exposure to air pollutants and greenhouse gases in public transportation in Dhaka city using low-cost sensors. Traffic jam is a known issue in Dhaka city due to the lack of proper planning, lack of road as well as public bus, poor traffic managements, old vehicles, reckless driving, and less skilled driver. In Dhaka city, public bus is a crucial means of transport and passengers are espousing huge pollution due to the long hours staying inside the public bus due to traffic jam. We will focus to quantify the exposure of particulate matter and trace gases of the passengers in the public bus for the first time in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We will use multipollutant sensor monitors for measuring particulate fractions (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10), gaseous pollutants (CO, NO2, O3), and greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4).
  • Sample project 7: Evaluation of satellite-based models in estimating the surface PM2.5 over Bangladesh. For assessing PM2.5 exposure and associated health impacts, there is a need to estimate accurate surface PM2.5 concentrations. Many studies have been applied machine learning (ML)-based models to estimate surface PM2.5 concentration by using satellite-retrieved aerosol optical depth (AOD) and ground-based measured PM2.5 concentration. However, there are some uncertainties associated with ML-based models leading to potential bias in estimating surface PM2.5. IRES students will apply ML-based models such as artificial neural network (ANN) and random forest to evaluate the accuracy of estimated PM2.5 concentration in Dhaka using hourly satellite-retrieved AOD data and ground-based measured PM2.5 concentrations.
  • Sample project 8: Estimation and characterization of waste burning impact in Dhaka, Bangladesh using low-cost sensors. Waste burning (e.g., garbage, agricultural residue) is one of the neglected sources of air pollution in many countries of the world including Bangladesh. Varieties of waste burning are happening in Dhaka city, e.g., open garbage burning, municipal solid waste burning, dry leaves burning, and garments cotton burning, and agricultural residue burning. IRES participants will study the particulate, gaseous and greenhouse gas emissions from waste burning in Dhaka using low-cost multipollutant sensor monitors.

Contact Us

For questions or any information, please email [email protected].


Md. Aynul Bari


Md. Aynul Bari
Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator
Department of Environmental and Sustainable Engineering
College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
University at Albany, State University of New York



Provat Kumar Saha

Provat Kumar Saha
Assistant Professor
Department of Civil Engineering
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology




Abdus Salam

Abdus Salam
Department of Chemistry
University of Dhaka





Stephen Luby

Stephen Luby
Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute
and the Freeman Spogli Institute and Professor, by courtesy, of Epidemiology
and Population Health
Stanford University

IRES Participants 2023

IRES Participants

Lauren Riviere

Lauren Riviere
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Lauren Riviere is an undergraduate student pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Sustainability Studies. Lauren is using her background knowledge in Python to research various calibration methods for low-cost air quality monitors. She has been working with the IRES with 7 other students to research and improve the air quality in Bangladesh. She hopes that with this research she can learn how to strive for more sustainable and equitable infrastructure. Outside of research, Lauren is a climate activist as the Marketing Director of the RPI Sunrise Movement. Additionally, with her free time she enjoys playing cards, painting, and ice skating. 

Tamanna Kamal Chowdhury

Tamanna Kamal Chowdhury
Columbia University

Tamanna Chowdhury is a rising sophomore at Columbia University, studying Environmental Chemistry with a concentration in Sustainable Development. Being Bangladeshi-American and growing up in the South Bronx, they are passionate about empowering marginalized communities by prioritizing research revolving around uplifting their voices. Having conducted residential air quality research in Bangladesh, they gained valuable insights into environmental challenges faced by vulnerable populations. Tamanna's interests lie in atmospheric chemistry, environmental justice, and working towards bridging the gap between scientific research and community involvement. 

Eleni Konstantelos

Eleni Konstantelos
SUNY Oneonta

Eleni Konstantelos is a dual major in Meteorology and Mathematics at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Going to Bangladesh, she focused on evaluating satellite-based models in estimating the surface PM2.5 over Bangladesh. Eleni analyzed various aerosols focused across the 7 Divisions of the country to understand the seasonal variability, the annual cycles, and the trends over time. Through this program, she gained confidence in her research, coding, and in the application of her knowledge of the atmosphere. Outside of research, Eleni is an active student on campus at SUNY Oneonta. She is the president of the Meteorology Club, the secretary of the Sanford Society, which is the mathematics club on campus, as well as the vice president of membership of Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity. After graduating, Eleni hopes to pursue a career in air quality research, aviation meteorology, or paleoclimatology.

Sophie Ilaann Bose

Sophie Ilaann Bose
University of Maryland

Sophie Bose is a rising second-year Environmental Science and Policy student at the University of Maryland. She is also pursuing a double degree in Spanish and a minor in GIS. She is passionate about environmental justice and encouraging community engagement in the sciences. She has past research experience working with low-cost air quality sensors to identify environmental justice hotspots in her native P.G. County, Maryland. She was very grateful for the opportunity to conduct similar air quality research in Bangladesh and hopes to continue to engage with vulnerable communities in mitigating environmental and climate challenges.

Santosh Jagan

Santosh Jagan
University of South Florida

Santosh Jagan is an undergraduate student pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering degree at the University of South Florida. After completing high school, Santosh joined the United States Navy Reserves working to provide worldwide fleet logistic support and continues his service today. While completing his Associated in Arts in Engineering from Hillsborough Community college, and during his first year at USF, he worked as a Water Resource Engineering intern in the Environmental Resource Permitting department at the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which aims at protecting Florida’s water resources. He has also worked under the WeRISE (Working to Eradicate Racism in Science and Engineering) grant, in which he worked with environmental justice issues related to air quality that disproportionately effect the East Tampa community. Santosh is passionate about air quality research with the goal of promoting sustainability and contributing to resolving global climate change issues.  

Marco Eugene

Marco Eugene
University at Albany

Marco is a rising Senior at the University at Albany, majoring in Biology. In Bangladesh, Marco used his intensive background from monitoring homes’ air quality in the capital and Hudson valley region, to estimate and characterize waste burning emissions in Dhaka. From this experience, he gained insightful knowledge and valuable skills to help in his researcher career. After graduating, he hopes to get into a research based graduate program to further research health issues that are linked to environmental factors such as air pollution.

Henrik Helmig

Henrik Helmig
University of Colorado Boulder

Henrik Helmig is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering in the College of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Having prior experience in working with air quality with issues surrounding the front range in Colorado through multiple internships, he was tasked with evaluating and mapping brick kiln emissions in Bangladesh by integrating low-cost sensors and satellite observations. He developed skills in field research, python, MATLAB, and ArcMap products over the two-month research trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. He hopes to take this experience and continue forward with studying further air quality issues around the world. Outside of research, Henrik enjoys traveling across the world, playing soccer, and backpacking in the mountains of Colorado. 



Ishe is a junior at Central State University who majors in Environmental Engineering. Ishe was tasked with monitoring air quality in 10 schools across the megacity of Dhaka in Bangladesh for the duration of his IRES research project. Due to his experiences on his first internship and research project, Ishe is interested in continuing air quality research and all the different avenues that this field holds. Ishe is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers which he has been a member of for two years now. In Ishe’s free time he likes to go out on hikes around Ohio, spend time with his family, or just watch a soccer game during the weekends.