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photo of Mario Molina

Mario Molina

Mario Molina was born and raised in Mexico City, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Not surprisingly, today he is one of the world's most knowledgeable experts on pollution and on the effects of chemical pollution on the environment. Mario began his scientific career as a chemical engineering major in his native Mexico. Although he loved chemistry, he began to realize that there is a negative side to this field of science: Chemicals can be dangerous. He also discovered that research, rather than engineering, was his career goal.

While working on his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, Mario began studying, along with his advisor Sherwood Roland, a particular type of chemical - chlorofluorocarbons - then widely used in consumer products. Mario wanted to know what happened to these chemicals when they entered the environment, because although they posed no danger to humans in their original form, these chemicals might change in the atmosphere. As Mario investigated chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, he realized that they were accumulating in the upper levels of the atmosphere. At high altitudes, the CFC molecules were breaking apart and the resulting chlorine atoms were destroying an important part of the atmosphere called ozone.

Mario and Roland published their study about the ozone layer in the early 1970s, but no one seemed to react. After several years, the destruction of the ozone layer became big news. Mario became a spokesperson, calling for limits and controls on the production and use of CFCs. In 1984, scientists discovered a huge hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Still, some people did not believe that CFCs were the cause of the problem. However, Mario went back to his lab and proved how and why the chemical reaction was happening. After years of work, his research had been successful. In 1995, Molina was awarded the most prestigious award of all - the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Today, Mario is a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has received many awards for his research on atmospheric pollution and has served on a number of committees to investigate air pollution. He is a member of several organizations dedicated to the advancement of science, and has received several awards, including being the first person not living in Mexico to be inducted into the Mexican National Academy of Engineers.

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