Chilean wins award for groundbreaking environmental work

Marcela Mena was awarded the prestigious prize by University of Iowa for work to understand and tackle air contamination


A huge problem facing urban areas across the world from Santiago to Seoul is how to deal with air pollution. Thankfully, innovators like Chilean scientist Dr. Marcelo Mena are working hard to come up with solutions.

Mena — an ecology expert based at Universidad Andrés Bello in Santiago — has recently been awarded an International Impact Award by the University of Iowa for his groundbreaking work to tackle the challenges of air contamination.

Announcing the decision to award the prize to the Chilean academic, Alec Scranton, dean of the University of Iowa’s School of Engineering, praised not only Mena’s impact but the breath of his work. “His multifaceted and visionary efforts to improve air quality and public health in Chile neither begin nor end in the laboratory and his research has been applied to problems faced by those outside of the country as well,” said Scranton.

The award — which will be presented on November 8 in the historic Iowa Old Capitol Building — has previously been given to those who have brought benefits to large numbers through their work including several philanthropists and the founders of the International Writing Program, an innovative scheme that brought together writers from parts of the world where literary and personal freedoms were often restricted.

For Mena, being linked with this latter organization in particular is a great mark of achievement.
“Winning the same prize that they gave to the inventor of the University of Iowa’s International Writer’s Program fills me with pride,” Mena wrote on Twitter shortly after the news was announced.

The green academic is adamant that improvements begin at home, citing the efforts of universities in Santiago who, to cite one example, have reduced pollution by drawing more and more power from solar panels.

Mena’s work comes at a time when the Chilean capital has since a marked increase in the number of new sustainable building projects firing it into third place for ecologically-friendly constructions after Brazil and Mexico.