Carnegie Mellon University

Neil  Donahue

Neil Donahue

Director, Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research
Thomas Lord University Professor of Chemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Engineering and Public Policy

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Neil Donahue is a professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He also directs the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research. He seeks to understand how Earth’s atmosphere works, and how humans affect the atmosphere. One of his objectives is to help all graduating Carnegie Mellon students understand the climate problem and to apply their outstanding problem solving skills to solutions of this enormous challenge. He is a member of numerous professional societies, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and an editor with several academic journals.

Donahue’s research group focuses on the behavior of organic compounds in Earth’s atmosphere. They are world experts in studying what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently his research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health. Particles scatter light, influence clouds, and kill roughly 50,000 people each year in the US, mostly of heart attacks.

Donahue’s father taught physics at Pitt, and Donahue received a B.S. in Physics from Brown University in 1985. He received a Ph.D. in meteorology from MIT in 1991, and spent nine years as a research scientist at Harvard before returning to Pittsburgh in 2000. He lives with his wife Maren Cooke and daughters Kielan and Innes in Squirrel Hill. They have three kW of photovoltaic solar panels on their roof. Donhaue is also an avid road cyclist; you may find him on one hill or another around town.


  • Ph.D., Meteorology and Atmospheric Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1991
  • BA, Physics, Brown University, 1984

In this video, Donahue explains what you need to know about climate change.

Donahue speaks about his award-winning work for which he received the Carnegie Science Center Environmental Award in 2017.

Donahue talks about his research into how the chemistry of organic components influences atmospheric aerosols in the atmosphere.

Donahue discusses how organic compounds emitted by trees make particles that affect global warming.

Learn more about Donahue's work: