Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, March 2023, Volume 6, #140
[Cite as: Fadeyi MO (2023). The impact of ventilation on cognitive ability influences the learning ability needed for processing information. Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, March 2023, Volume 6, #140.]
Fictional Case Story (Audio)
The human ability to process information at their disposal to generate the required experience (processed information) was being compromised by lack of ventilation and inadequate ventilation rate with little attention to the predicament. The little attention led to many missed opportunities to increase academic and work performance needed to improve a country’s economy. The missed opportunities were due to a lack of scientific research to provide objective data and information that could influence experience, which include knowledge, understanding, and skills required to guide practice to ensure appropriate ventilation rates standards are adhered to by building owners, facility managers, and occupants. Tragedy, life struggles, love, and sacrifice led a girl to pursue research later in her life as a young woman to understand how the impact of ventilation on cognitive ability could influence the learning ability needed for processing information to generate experience. The girl’s journey from a primary school girl to a career woman is the subject of this short fiction story.
Finally! The day I had been dreading for a few months had finally come. This was the day my mother would travel overseas to work as a housemaid. My mother decided to work abroad, in a country called, Burpines, when our main source of income stopped suddenly without any warning. Burpines was a high-income country. On the other hand, my own country, Turma, was a low-income country. We lived in a remote village called Matok in this low-income country. We were very poor, to say the least. Neither my father nor my mother had any ‘formal’ education.
My father, who was working in Burpines as a construction labourer had an accident at the construction site he was working. He died at the scene. It was a rude shock for everyone in the family. I was in Primary 5 when we received the awful news of my father’s death. My father had gone to work abroad so that my mother and I could have a better life and so that I could have a better education.
My mother arranged for me to stay with my paternal grandmother, who was in her 70s. My paternal grandmother was the only surviving close family that I had. My paternal and maternal grandparents had one child each, and my maternal grandparents were dead. My mum was to work in Burpines as a maid. I cried a lot. I wanted to follow my mum. However, she tried to make me realise it was impossible as she would work there as a maid.
She promised to do everything possible to ensure I had a better education and, hopefully, I could come to Burpines for my university education. That statement changed my attitude toward my studies. Within one year, I moved from being a below-average student to one of the best in my class in Primary 6.
My mother sent money home every month. My mum spent little money on herself. The money she sent helped pay my school fees and covered my and my grandma’s living expenses. I did well in school. A year later, I graduated from primary school. When it was time for me to go to secondary school, my mum ensured I attended our village’s so-called ‘best’ secondary school. In addition to sending money to me, she spent used books of her bosses’ children, with their permission, to me.
My mum wanted me to have the highest standard level of education possible even though I was living and studying in a poor village where the quality of education was poor and could not hold a touch to world-class education in Burpines. My mum sacrificed a lot to ensure I had a good education.
She believed good education was the only way out of poverty for me. My father had the same sentiment. They both believed in education even though they did not have formal education. My mum sent about 80% of her hard-end salary home to ensure I did not lack anything financially.
Years passed by, and I went through my 6-year secondary school education. When I was in my final year, my mother encouraged me to sit for the GCE-A level exam, and she paid for the examination fees. She wanted me to move closer to her. I had been living alone since I was in Secondary 4 when my paternal grandmother, whom I was living with, passed away. I was 16 years old. It took a lot of self-discipline and braveness to focus on my studies and be a good girl.
My mum was very concerned! She called me every day in the morning and at night. Hehehe! She begged, advised, and did everything possible to remind me to be a good girl and focus on my studies. My mum made sure I had everything I wanted. I was also a reasonable child. I lived within my means. The last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my mum, who sacrificed for me to have a better education and life. Hmmm! My mum really sacrificed a lot for me! We got to see each other in person only once a year.
She wanted to come and study at one of the universities in Burpines. The universities in Burpines are one of the best in the world. She said a lot of good things about the country’s education system. I studied very hard. I did not want my mum’s sacrifice to go to waste; I wanted to make her proud. Most importantly, I wanted to live in the same country as her and, hopefully, get enough money to care for her in the future. I also did not want to live all my life in the village.
I aced the GCE A-Level examination and got admission to the National University of Burpines (NUB) to study architectural engineering. I scored A* in all the subjects I registered for in the Cambridge GCE-A- level examination. To put things in context, there was nothing like GCE A-level in my country. Our education system did not cater to A-level studies and examinations. Secondary 6 education in my country prepared students for the O-level examination. The book, videos of past examination papers, answer explanations, used laptops, and other educational materials my mum sent me were instrumental in my success.
My mum was over the moon. I was the first person in my family’s history to gain admission to a university. To top it up, I was the first person in my village to get admission to NUB. My mum’s employers, Dr. M and Dr. C. Khan, were very proud of me and my mum that they offered to pay for my flight to Burpines. The Khans accompanied my mother to the airport to welcome me to Burpines and meet me for the first time. They were highly impressed by my performance. Looking back, my love for my mother drove me to perform well.
I got the chance to thank Dr. and Dr. Khan and their twin daughters, who were two years older than me, for the educational materials and other gifts they gave to my mum to send to me. My mum was very lucky to work with a caring family. My mum took very good care of the twin girls since they were in a lower secondary school level as if they were her daughter. It was no surprise; everyone in the family cared for my mother.
Dr. and Dr. Khan were surgeons at the Burpines National University Hospital and were always busy. Dr. M. Khan, the husband, was a thoracic surgeon, and the wife, Dr. C. Khan, was a neurosurgeon. The Khan family were special and good people. Not every employer will appreciate the good work of their maids. The twin girls were also studying at NUB. One of the girls was studying law, and the other was studying economics. I spent two days at Mr. and Mrs. Khan’s house before I moved to the hostel reserved for me by NUB. The twin girls, my good friends till today, gave me the first orientation about NUB.
I got a tuition grant to fund my undergraduate studies. The tuition grant means my tuition fees were covered on the condition that I must serve a 3-year bond of working in any companies in Burpines. I resided in the hostel throughout my four years of undergraduate studies. I visited my mum every Sunday, on her off day, to have our so-called family time. My mum was the only family that I had. I was her only family too. We would go out to eat, do site seeing, and sometimes have picnic times with her friends who were also maids.
Sometimes, I was mistaken for a maid when we went out. Even though I did not care, my mum made it her duty to correct anyone that thought I was a maid. She would say, “Hey! This is my daughter. She is a student at NUB.” Many people respected my mother because she had a daughter studying at NUB. Gaining admission to NUB was not child’s play. To put things in context, NUB was in the same league as Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, and Oxford.
4 Years went by within a twinkle of an eye, and I graduated with a first-class BEng (Honours) degree in architectural engineering (mechanical option). After graduation, I got a job as a facility manager in a private-owned secondary school to serve my 3-year bond to the country. I made sure I opened an account for my mom. She had never had a bank account in the country, as she sent most of her salary to me when I was studying and living in our village.
I deposited money more than her monthly salary as a maid into her bank account every month after I got my salary. I got a very good salary because I graduated with first class. My mother continued to work as a maid as that was the only way she could legally reside in Burpines. I was an employment permit holder, and according to the immigration law of the country, I could not be a sponsor for my mother. I could only be her sponsor if I held a permanent residency permit.
I pursued a master’s degree at NUB part-time while working full-time as a facility manager. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable facility management to upgrade my professional experience (knowledge, understanding, and skills) and increase my chances of providing a better life for myself, my mother, and my future nucleus family.
I spent most of my Saturdays studying at the university library to ensure I kept up with the pace and demands of the master’s programme. Sunday was ‘my mother and I’ day. I would not compromise that for anything. It was during my master’s programme that my interest in working in academia started to grow. I feel very much at home with research-related module assignments, and I really enjoyed my MSc Dissertation project. My dissertation research centred around the impact of human behaviour on energy consumption in air-conditioned buildings in hot and humid climates. I scored A in my dissertation.
I graduated with MSc with distinction. My dissertation professor encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. as she felt I had a natural aptitude for research. I seriously considered pursuing a Ph.D. degree. I thought a Ph.D. degree would increase my financial power. That was my naïve thought. Hehehe!
As you should have realised by now, my professional decision is always influenced by the need to gain financial power to take care of my mother without the need for my mother to work as a maid and live with me. The thought of her daughter being a Ph.D. holder made my mother really happy.
My mum once said it would be wonderful for someone like her, a maid, to have a child that is a professor. She said this after I graduated with first class. Dr. M. Khan and Dr. C. Khan were both professors in addition to being surgeons. I believe she wanted me to be a professor like them.
Seeing the happiness on my mum’s face, the decision to pursue a Ph.D., despite the short-time financial sacrifice I would be making, was sealed in my mind. I made my intention to apply for Ph.D. known to my MSc dissertation professor, Prof. J. Georgia. She told me I needed to write a proposal that I needed to submit as part of the Ph.D. application documents. This realisation set me on a journey of figuring out what to do for my Ph.D.
Unfortunately, I found the development of the Ph.D. proposal very challenging. I would spend several hours in my apartment when I was not at the office. Other times, I would be at the library on Saturday to figure out what to write for the proposal. After several weeks of reading many research papers, public educational resources, and books to determine a research gap I could work on, I could not come up with any idea worthy.
During one of my struggles, a handsome man came to where I was studying and introduced himself to me as Dr. Adam Yusuf. I introduced myself as Simbi Amin. He told me he had just joined the university as a postdoctoral fellow to work in Professor Georgia’ research group. He said he was with Professor Georgia when I left the library yesterday.
“Oh! You were the one,” I said. “Prof. told me you plan to join the research group as a Ph.D. student.” He told me. It was at this time that I shared my ordeal with him. Luckily, I shared my ordeal with him. What Adam said later determined the course of my Ph.D. and personal life. Adam said the following.
“…Simbi! You said you are finding it difficult to process the information at your disposal to generate the required experience (processed information). Processed information means the knowledge, understanding, and skills you need to identify the research gap and write your Ph.D. proposal.
The portable carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor I have with me shows a very high CO2 concentration. This suggests there is no adequate ventilation rate in this library to reduce the concentration of emissions from people and indoor air pollutants of indoor and outdoor origins present in the library.
Studies suggest that CO2, PM2.5, VOCs, and other air pollutants at high concentrations compromise cognitive activities needed for developing the learning ability required for processing information to generate the required experience. Could this be contributing to your situation? Additionally, little is known about how variation in ventilation rates could compromise the performance of the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, temporal lobes, and hippocampus needed for cognitive activities. You may want to explore this for Ph.D. research…”
All of a sudden, ideas started to rush into my brain like magic. It was as if Adam turned on a button in my brain that opened the door for ideas to come in. I developed my Ph.D. proposal in time enough before the application period expired. Adam and I became casual friends after that. The friendship grew after I joined Prof. Georgia’s research group. We later became close friends.
I became his wife, and my name changed to Simbi Amin-Yusuf after my Ph.D. Let’s go back to the start of my research journey on ventilation that I am known for today. My Ph.D. research was the start of the journey. The purpose of my proposed Ph.D. research was to bridge the gap in our knowledge and understanding through scientific research that provides knowledge and understanding of the impact of ventilation on cognitive activities on the learning ability needed for processing information.
My proposed research was driven by two fundamental questions that drove the objectives of my Ph.D. study: (i) How can different ventilation rates at constant concentrations of ozone and limonene influence human work performance and each part of the brain responsible for the cognitive ability needed to process the information for solving assessment task problems with similar and varying difficulty intensities in an indoor environment? (ii) How can variations in ozone and volatile organic compounds concentrations at different ventilation rates influence human work performance and each part of the brain responsible for the cognitive ability needed to process the information for solving assessment task problems with similar intensities in an indoor environment?
Experimental studies were conducted to examine the relationship between the noted variables and find answers to the two research questions. My Ph.D. study was anchored on two objectives informed by the research questions. I designed experimental methods to fulfill my research objectives.
As human beings were involved in the experimental studies, it was necessary to get IRB approval before the studies could proceed. Ozone and limonene were deliberately injected in the presence of human subjects, and data were collected on the subjects’ physiological conditions.
We managed to get the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to proceed with the experimental studies. It would be good to know the research methods we adopted to appreciate our findings, that is, the answers to the research questions. I will try to provide an overview of the experimental method to you.
The research was conducted in an air-conditioned field environmental chamber depicting an open-plan office. The air-conditioned chamber recirculated 90% of the volume of its indoor air, and 10% came from outdoor. The chamber was large enough to accommodate 40 healthy university subjects of equal proportion of male and female subjects at once for each experiment conducted.
We chose to work with 40 subjects for statistical analysis purposes and the reliability of our data and conclusion made. We were lucky that the chamber in our university could take 40 subjects at once. In other universities I knew of, they had to repeat an experimental study two or three times because their chamber was not large enough to accommodate such a large number at once.
The age of the subjects ranged between 21 and 35 years old. There were ten workstations in the chamber. Each station could accommodate four subjects. The number of subjects that participated in each experiment ranged between 38 and 40. Some subjects were absent due to unforeseen personal circumstances that happened on the day or night before an experiment.
The number of subjects in each experiment was enough for statistically acceptable precision and accuracy of the results of an experiment. 40 subjects assigned to each experiment were taken from more than 60 subjects recruited for the study. Subjects were compensated financially for their participation in the study.
The first research question had two objectives. The first objective addressed the assessment task problems with varying difficulty intensities, and the second objective addressed the assessment task problems with similar difficulty intensities. Several experiments were conducted to address each objective. Each experiment conducted lasted for 13 hours. Human subjects’ participation was 9 hours, depicting typical office hours or any work or learning environment where people spend extended periods.
Continuous measurements of ozone, limonene, and secondary organic aerosols (SOA) generated from ozone-limonene chemistry started 1-hour before ozone and limonene were deliberately injected (at 8 am) into the chamber for 11 hours (8 am to 7 pm). For your interest, SOAs are particulate matters. Ozone and limonene were injected into the chamber 1 hour before subjects entered the chamber. Subjects entered the chamber at 9 am, two hours after measurements had started.
Subjects spent 4 hours in the chamber before their lunch break at 1 pm. They had their 1-hour break outside the chamber but not outside the building. They returned to the chamber at 2 pm and spent additional 4 hours in the chamber before they exited the chamber at 6 pm. Ozone and limonene injections were turned off at 7 pm, 1 hour after the subjects had exited the chamber. Measurements continued and stopped at 8 pm. I will try not to bore you with the details of the instruments used for the experiments.
Subjects completed two assessment tasks during the first four hours before the break and another two assessment tasks for four hours after the break. The first assessment (A1) was conducted 40 minutes after the subjects occupied the chamber, i.e., at 9.40 am. The assessment task (A1), and other assessment tasks in each experiment, lasted for 15 minutes. The second assessment (A2) was conducted 20 minutes before subjects exited the chamber for their 1-hour lunch break, i.e., at 12.40 pm.
The third assessment (A3) was conducted 40 minutes after subjects re-entered the chamber after the lunch break, i.e., 2.40 pm. The fourth assessment (A4) was conducted 20 minutes before subjects exited the chamber for the day, i.e., at 5.40 pm. The assessment task problems at A1 to A4 were similar, with the same difficulty level (D1). Additional two experiments were conducted similarly, but with higher difficulty levels, i.e., D2 and D3. The assessment task problems set, irrespective of difficulty level, were within the intellectual capability of all the subjects.
Each experiment for D1, D2, and D3 was conducted at ‘no (NV)’, ‘low (LV)’, ‘medium (MV)’, and ‘high (HV)’ ventilation rates. There was no variation in the ventilation rate within each experiment. The experiments addressed the impact of ventilation provision and increased ventilation rate from low to high. The recirculation rate was constant for all experiments conducted in the research study. Ozone and limonene were emitted at a constant rate to achieve steady-state concentrations of ozone and limonene at concentrations typically found indoors.
We also measured TVOC concentration just to confirm that SOAs generated in the chamber were mainly due to ozone-limonene chemistry. We believed ozone-limonene chemistry was the main source of measured SOA as ozone and limonene were deliberately injected into the chamber. Furthermore, SOA started to increase after the injections of ozone and limonene and reached a steady state that was significantly higher than the background SOA concentration before ozone and limonene were injected. Additionally, TVOC concentrations in the chamber before limonene was injected were very low. TVOC concentration started to increase after limonene was injected and reached a steady state that was significantly higher than the background TVOC concentration in the chamber.
With the aid of a sophisticated instrument, we were also able to do continuous measurements of known ozone-limonene chemistry products such as 4-Acetyl-1-methyl cyclohexene (4-AMC) and 3-Isopropenyl-6-oxoheptanal (IPOH) throughout the 13 hours measurement period. The concentrations of the chemistry products increased significantly after ozone and limonene were deliberately injected into the chamber. We kept parameters such as relative humidity, air temperature, air movement, and mean radiant temperature constant as much as possible. Other indoor environmental qualities, like thermal, acoustics, and light or visual conditions, could introduce confounders into the data collected.
Thus, they were monitored to be able to account for their possible impacts on the subjects. Blinds were also used to cover the window to reduce the potential impact of the visual condition on the subjects’ assessment task performance and physiological conditions. Other precautionary measures that could help increase the accuracy of the data collected were taken. The D3 set of experiments was repeated with no ozone and a lower ozone emission rate to answer the second research question covering the third objective. The above experiments above were done at a ‘higher’ ozone emission rate. The limonene emission rate was constant for all experiments conducted in my Ph.D. study.
The parts of the brain of interest in our study, the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, temporal lobes, and hippocampus, responsible for human cognitive ability, were monitored using computer tomography. A decade before our studies, using computer tomography to scan the brain usually took at least 15 minutes. Moreso, the available computer tomography scanners at that time were huge. We were lucky that there had been a rapid improvement in technology development at the time of our study.
At the time of our study, portable computer tomography could scan with a high level of detail and accuracy in less than a minute. We capitalised on this technological advancement in our study. We collaborated with colleagues from the university’s College of Health Sciences, which housed the Faculty of Medicine. We monitored the level of compromise to the function index of each part of the brain studied before and after each assessment task to determine the impact of variation in ventilation, pollutants (reactants and the chemistry products) emission rate, and the difficulty level of assessment tasks.
The prefrontal cortex, which is situated in the frontal lobes of the brain, is responsible for memory, attention, reasoning, planning, and decision-making. The parietal cortex, located at the brain’s upper back, is responsible for spatial processing, attention, and perception. The temporal lobes and hippocampus are responsible for memory and language comprehension. These parts of the brain are needed for the cognitive ability needed for learning.
What is learning? This was one of the critical questions I thought of when I initially developed the research methodology in my proposal. I defined learning as the benefit from the rate at which a raw item is converted to a processed item. This means learning is gained when information is converted to experience (i.e., processed information). Experience includes knowledge, understanding, and skills. It could also mean learning is gained when data is converted to information (i.e., processed data).
The ability to increase the benefit gained through an increase in the conversion rate is called learning ability. Someone with higher learning ability can easily generate experience (processed information) whenever exposed to, acquire, or retain information, i.e., “Experience (processed information) = Information x Learning ability”. For example, a student with higher learning ability can easily generate experience (knowledge, understanding, and skills) when exposed to or have the ability to acquire and retain information to be processed from instructors, books, or any other sources.
Attention and perception are needed to acquire information. Memory is needed to retain information. If parts of the brain needed for attention, perception, and memory are compromised, the amount of information available for processing will be reduced. The reduction in the amount of information available for processing will reduce the amount of experience generated. If parts of the brain needed for processing information are compromised, the amount of experience generated will be reduced.
The reduction in experience means a reduction in knowledge, understanding, and skills needed to solve a problem. That is why the parts of the brain needed for cognitive processes are also regarded as being responsible for problem-solving. Higher learning ability can also help (researchers) to generate information, e.g., a figure or table, from research data, i.e., “Information (processed data) = Data x Learning ability.” That means if data cannot be processed to generate information, the experience generated will be reduced due to limited information available.
As I have alluded to earlier, a cognitive ability is needed to convert a raw item to a processed item. Cognitive ability involves a mental process that uses the brain’s attention, perception, memory, reasoning, and other related functions to develop critical and reflective thinking needed to generate insightful, meaningful, and thought-provoking questions for converting a raw item (e.g., information) to a processed item (e.g., experience) needed to solve a problem.
Critical thinking is a process of analysing and evaluating information systematically and logically to generate experience (processed information). Critical thinking helps generate questions that question assumptions, fallacies, and explore alternative perspectives in the form of information to generate experience. On the other hand, reflective thinking is a process that uses questioning to gather and connect several past (prior) information with current information to form comprehensive information that needs to be processed to form a ‘rich’ experience.
It is important to note that human or animal’s motivation and interest in asking questions can also aid questioning ability that can aid critical and reflective thinking needed for enhancing cognitive ability. The higher the cognitive ability, the higher the learning ability. Thus, motivation and interest are needed for learning ability. Based on knowledge and understanding gained from the literature, my research team and I knew poor IAQ causes discomfort and health problems, increasing human stress levels. Increased stress levels will diminish motivation or interest to perform or participate in learning or any activities. As our focus is on IAQ, we made efforts to reduce any sources of stress that could introduce confounders into our study.
The plan was to plot subjects’ performance level, on the y-axis, against assessment tasks (A1 to A4) at the lowest difficulty level (D1), on the x-axis, for four ventilation conditions, Nv, Lv, Mv, and Hv, on a plot to answer the first research question and fulfill the first objectives. The plot was repeated for D2 and D3. We also planned to plot data collected for the level of compromise to the function index of a part of the brain studied, on the y-axis, against assessment tasks (A1 to A4) at the lowest difficulty level (D1), on the x-axis, for four ventilation conditions, Nv, Lv, Mv, and Hv on a plot. The plot was repeated for D2 and D3. The plots for D1, D2, and D3 were done for each of the parts of the brain studied.
Similar sets of plots were done for the three difficulty levels of the assessment tasks, D1, D2, and D3, on a plot at each of the ventilation conditions, Nv, Lv, Mv, and Hv, and parts of the brain studied to answer the first research question and fulfill the second objective. To answer the second research question and fulfill the third objective, we planned to plot subjects’ performance level, on the y-axis, against assessment tasks (A1 to A4), at the lowest difficulty level (D1), on the x-axis, for ‘no’, ‘lower’, and ‘higher’ ozone emission rate on a plot, at constant limonene emission rate and no ventilation rate. The plot was repeated for Lv, Mv, and Hv. A similar set of plots was repeated with the level of compromise to the function index of each part of the brain studied on the y-axis.
Aside from data collected on the subjects, we also analysed data to understand how ozone, limonene, TVOCs, SOA, 4-AMC, and IPOH concentrations measured continuously in the chamber varied throughout the 13 hours measurement period. We were interested to understand how the air pollutants concentrations varied, due to human presence in the chamber, during seven distinct periods in the experiment.
The seven distinct periods were 1 hour before the start of ozone and limonene injection into the chamber, 1 hour before subjects entered the chamber in the morning, 4 hours period subjects spent in the chamber before the lunch break, 1 hour lunch break, 4 hours subjects spent in the chamber after the break, 1 hour after subjects left for the day, and 1 hour after ozone and limonene injections were stopped.
Initially, understanding the impact of human presence on indoor air pollutants concentration in the chamber was not part of the plan. It was during the time when the execution of the experiments was about to start that I came across a paper in the literature that suggested that human presence could influence the concentrations of ozone and its initiated chemistry products.
The study was conducted in the United States. The authors claimed that their study was the first to report such findings. I searched the literature extensively to see if I could find papers that reported similar findings, but I could not find one. As I planned to conduct experiments involving ozone and its initial chemistry with human presence and absence in the chamber, I thought this was an opportunity to contribute to a possible new understanding in the literature.
Many researchers conducted studies exploring the impact of human presence on ozone and its initiated chemistry products after we published our findings. In that sense, my research team and I also contributed significantly to the literature. We analysed data to understand how SOA size distribution varied during the seven distinct periods. We also analysed data to understand how measured pollutants concentrations could be used to explain the subjects’ performance in solving assessment task problems and the level of compromise to the function index of each part of the brain studied.
Correlation analyses were done to understand how the ventilation rate condition, air pollutants concentrations, the function index of the parts of the brain studied, and subjects’ performance in assessment tasks were related. The planned study was a tedious process involving effective planning, coordination, and logistics management. I was lucky enough for the tremendous support of my Ph.D. supervisor. Her advice and guidance saved me! Additionally, the research grant she helped secure was instrumental in getting research staff and assistance that helped carry out the study.
The already available instrument in the university and Professor Georgia’s lab helped save some cost of purchasing instruments. After conducting the experiments and analysing the collected data, the following were the main findings from my Ph.D. study.
– The observations on the compromise to function index of the parts of the brain responsible for the cognitive ability of the subjects studied followed the same pattern as the assessment tasks. The compromised level increased from A1 to A4, irrespective of ventilation condition and difficulty level of assessment tasks.
– As ventilation was provided and the ventilation rate used for each experiment increased, the difference in compromise level to the function index of each brain part studied between assessments (A1 and A2, A2 and A3, and A3 and A4) decreased. No significant difference existed between assessments at Hv, Mv, and Lv. However, at Nv, there was a significant difference in the compromise level to the function index of the parts of the brain between assessments compared.
– The compromise to the function index of parts of the subjects’ brain was highest for Nv, followed by Lv, then ‘Mv, and the least was Hv for all assessments (A1 to A4), irrespective of difficulty level (D1 to D3). A significant difference was observed when the level of compromise to the function index of parts of the subjects’ brain at A1 of Hv was compared with that of Nv at A1. The same observation as A1 was observed at A2, A3, and A4 for all assessment difficulty level scenarios. There was no consistent observation in the case of Mv and Lv.
– The increase in the concentrations of reactants and their chemistry by-products because of an increase in resident time due to no ventilation or lower ventilation rate led to more subjects’ exposure to pollutants that we believed caused the function index of the parts of the brain studied to be compromised.
– The lower the ventilation rate, the lesser the dilution benefit ventilation provides. The lower the dilution, the more the amount of ozone and limonene available to participate in indoor air chemistry, causing a generation of SOA and other chemistry products.
– Ozone and its initiated chemistry products are known in the literature to be harmful to human health. We observed that the increased measured air pollutants concentrations were highly correlated with an increase in the extent to which the function index of the parts of the brain studied was compromised and the decline in subjects’ assessment task performance. The extent to which the function index of part of the brain studied was compromised was highly correlated with a decline in subjects’ assessment task performance.
– This means the lower the ventilation rate, the lower the cognitive ability needed to process the information in the assessment task problems to develop the experienced (knowledge, understanding, and skills) needed to solve the problems. The situations were worst when there was no ventilation.
– We believed that the cognitive process functions I mentioned earlier when I talked about our methodology were compromised because of a possible compromise to the parts of the brain studied. The possible compromise to the function index of the brain parts, we believed, caused subjects’ performance in the assessment tasks to be compromised.
– The performance of the subjects in accurately solving the assessment task problems was lower with increased difficulty level of the assessment task problems. However, the provision of ventilation and an increase in ventilation rate helped lower the effects of the difficulty level in lowering the subjects’ performance.
– Our findings suggested that the difficulty level of assessment task problems challenged the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive ability and contributed to the compromised function index of these parts of the brain. However, with a supply of ventilation at an appropriate rate, the challenges the difficulty level of assessment task problems posed to the brain were reduced.
– This observation suggested that the higher the expected difficulty level of work or learning activities in an indoor environment, the higher the necessity of supplying ventilation at an appropriate rate, especially if there are sources of pollutants present in the indoor environment or outdoors.
– The observation is strengthened by findings from experiments designed to answer research question 2 and objective 3. We observed that the provision of ventilation and an increase in ventilation rate could lower the effect an increase in the ozone concentration could have in decreasing the subjects’ performance level and increasing the extent to which the function index of parts of the brain is compromised.
– An increase in the ozone emission rate increased the amount of ozone available to participate in indoor air chemistry. It led to more SOAs and other ozone-initiated chemistry products that were generated in the chamber.
– The higher the concentrations of ozone, SOA, and other ozone-initiated chemistry products, the higher the compromise to subjects’ performance level in solving assessment task problems and the compromise to the functions index of the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive activities. The provision of ventilation and an increase in its rate helped lower the effect an increase in ozone emission rate had in increasing the concentration of ozone present in the chamber for indoor air chemistry.
– Human presence in the chamber served as a sink for ozone and SOA generated from ozone-initiated chemistry. Ozone and SOA concentrations dipped after subjects entered the chamber before reaching their new and lower steady states. Both ozone and SOA concentrations increased from their respective steady states when subjects exited the chamber for their lunch break to reach their new and higher steady states.
– Concentrations of 4-AMC and IPOH followed the same pattern as ozone and SOA in human presence. A lower amount of ozone available for ozone-initiated chemistry meant a lower amount of 4-AMC and IPOH, like in the case of SOA, would be generated.
– Ozone, limonene, SOA, 4-AMC, and IPOH concentrations decreased rapidly and reached a lower steady within 1 hour of subjects exiting the chamber for the day. After ozone and limonene injections were turned off, the measured air pollutants concentrations decreased rapidly to get closer to the background concentrations measured in the morning before ozone and limonene injections.
We published our findings in top-rated peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. We were able to publish three journal articles and four conference papers. I won awards for two journal articles and all my conference papers. I was the first author of all the papers, as the main idea for the research came from me.
I played a leading role in the logistics and execution of the experiments, data analysis, and writing the articles. I completed my Ph.D. study within four years and graduated with flying colours. I won the prize for the best Ph.D. dissertation in the university during the graduation ceremony. My mum was very proud of my achievement. She told everyone we met on our way to the graduation ceremony, “that is my daughter, she is a Ph.D. holder, and she is doing her Ph.D. graduation today.” I understood her happiness. She came to the Burpines to work as a maid, and her daughter graduated as a Ph.D. holder in the same country.
I was immediately recruited by Sustainable Infrastructure Construction Authority (SICA). SICA was a government agency responsible for leading the transformation of sustainable infrastructure development in the country. I was recruited to be the agency’s deputy director for the sustainable building research (SBR) department.
A few weeks after SICA recruited me, I applied for permanent residency in the country. My application was successful. This meant I could now be a sponsor for my mother. My mother could reside in the country without the need to work as a maid. She moved in with me. I told her it was time for her to rest and for me to take care of her. She worked for decades to ensure I had a good education and better life. I also fulfilled my mum’s main request. To get married. Hehehe! She jokingly told your father and me it is time for us to marry as I have finished my Ph.D.
We told her not to worry and that we were ready to get married. We got married seven months later, and we gave birth to you. I think grandma was the happiest person in this world the day you were born. She was very happy to be a grandma. She was 55 years old when you were born. My mum told your dad and me to focus on our work to be our best. She said she is very happy to take of you. As you know, grandma loved you a lot. The support of my mum helped your father and me to excel in our careers while fulfilling our role as parents. My mum’s support helped me to cope with the workload from SICA.
Part of the tasks of the team I led was to understand the root causes of poor ventilation adoption in air-conditioned buildings in the country. The experience made me realise important factors to consider when designing ventilation systems to enhance the chances of building owners, facility managers, and occupants being willing to adopt ventilation at appropriate ventilation rates.
It was a rude shock to my colleagues at SICA and me that in a high-income economy country like Brupines, building occupants’ ability to process information at their disposal to generate the required experience (processed information) was being compromised by lack of ventilation or inadequate ventilation rate prevent in the country without much attention to the predicament. We also observed that there were many missed opportunities to increase academic and work performance needed to improve a country’s economy. Our findings at the agency department aided SICA in developing policies that made Brupines one of the countries in the world where the adoption of ventilation in buildings at an appropriate rate was prevalent.
After four years at SICA, I decided it was time to return to academics. My excellent publication records, research plans, and industry experience made me a favourable candidate for the assistant professor position at the Brupines Institute of Applied Science and Technology (BIAST). I was one of the three female professors in my department of mechanical engineering. With mum’s help again, I could commit a lot of time and effort to meet the demand of being a professor in this country. Being a professor in this country is not easy.
I went on to make major contributions to building ventilation research that made a significant impact on human development in academia, industry, and the community. The risk of poor ventilation rate compromising learning ability in indoor environments was reduced as a result of my building ventilation research on a human cognitive ability that started with my Ph.D. study. My Ph.D. study influenced many related research efforts and policies for improving industry and community practices across the globe. My name, Professor Simbi Amin-Yusuf, became a household name in academia, industry, and the community. Within 15 years of joining BIAST, I became a full professor of mechanical engineering at the university.
Looking back, with the grace of Almighty, I am the person I am today simply because of my mother, and I am happy she lived long enough to rip the fruit of her labour and see you, her grandson, get married, and have children. She was my hero. Mum, I miss you. Rest in peace. How I wish my dad would live that long too. His sacrifice led to the foundation for who I am today. Rest in peace, papa. I am who I am today because of the sacrifice made by my parents to ensure I have a ‘better’ life.
Professor Simbi Amin-Yusuf narrated the story you just read to her son, Habib Yusuf, an internationally acclaimed filmmaker. Habib was working on stories of women across the globe that made a major impact in their STEM career and their society.
To make the story, which included technical information, related to anyone, irrespective of their education level and professional disciplines, Habib decided to narrate the life story of each person he interviewed. He decided to include his mum’s life story in his film. Professor Simibi Amin-Yusuf’s story was an episode in the 22-episode documentary film he made.
As Habib was concluding the interview with his mum, his dad, Professor Adam Yusuf, came home. Professor A Yusuf was a Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering at NUB. Although he and his wife worked at different universities, they collaborated on many research projects during their careers.
Habib had a small chat with his father about the interview he had just concluded with his mum. “Did she include the part on how we met in her story? You must include that part in the story?” Professor A. Yusuf asked. They all laughed. “Yes! She did.” Habib responded with a smile and mentioned how he (Professor A. Yusuf) gave his mum an idea that set her on a journey of several discoveries and wins.
“This is the story of how I met your mother. The meeting led to marriage and you. Your mother found that a low ventilation rate led to high pollutants concentrations that compromised the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive ability. The direction I gave your mother led her to conduct very important research that showed the importance of ventilation to learning and experience generation.” Professor A. Yusuf said proudly. Then he said, “I did all this for science!” Professor S. Amin-Yusuf busted into laughter upon hearing her husband say, “I did all this for science.”
“Haha! For science, indeed! I love you very much, my darling husband, in a scientific way. Hahahaha!” She said jokingly. She further said, “Anyway, I am grateful to the Almighty for giving me the love of my life and experience to create awareness that encouraged the industry to adopt appropriate ventilation rates that enhance cognitive activities, i.e., attention, perception, memory, reasoning, ….” The documentary made by Habib Yusuf won several international awards as the best documentary film. The End.