CSU Aerosol Emissions Study

Reducing Bioaerosol Emissions and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID19


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates maintaining six feet from others to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); however, this is based on expected airborne particles emitted during regular breathing.

Performance artists are more likely to display forced-air breathing (i.e., singing, playing musical instruments or dancing, among other artistic expressions), which is more like sneezing and coughing.  While data is lacking, there is developing consensus that infectious aerosolized particles containing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 are partly responsible for global spread. According to one recent study, the transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 may be more than 13 feet (https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200885).

Unfortunately, many infected individuals do not realize they are infected; and group activities such as choir, dance, acting, or instrument ensembles increase the risk of spread. Solutions are needed to reduce the risk of viral spread during performances and group practice settings.

Headed by a multi-disciplinary team of leading researchers at Colorado State University, this proposal aims to quantify the problem and more importantly, identify mitigating strategies to reduce infectious spread.


John Volckens, Ph.D.: Professor, Mechanical Engineering

John Volckens is a professor of Mechanical Engineering and the director of the Center for Energy Development and Health at CSU. He has appointments in Environmental Health, Biomedical Engineering, the Colorado School of Public Health, and the CSU Energy Institute. His research interests involve air quality, low-cost sensors, exposure science, and air pollution-related disease. He received clinical research training in controlled human exposure at the U.S. EPA's National Health Effects and Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC. He holds four patents and has published over 100 scientific manuscripts related to human exposure science, aerosol technology, and air pollution-related disease. He has been the PI of over $20M in funded research from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, EPA, and NASA.

Daniel Goble, D.M.A.: Director, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance; Professor of Music

Dan Goble is the director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at Colorado State University. Dr. Goble served as the dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn., where for 21 years his leadership roles also included chair of the Department of Music and coordinator of Jazz Studies. During his tenure at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU), Dr. Goble provided leadership for curricular and programmatic changes that affected positively the School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVPA) and the university, most notably the planning and construction of an award-winning $97 million instructional and performance facility, which opened in 2014

Rebecca Phillips, D.M.A.: Director of Bands, Professor of Music

Rebecca Phillips headshotRebecca Phillips is professor of music and director of bands at Colorado State University where she conducts the CSU Wind Symphony and guides all aspects of the band and graduate wind conducting program. She has served as a guest-conductor and clinician, throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Dr. Phillips regularly conducts collegiate honor bands, all-state bands, and festival bands across the United States, Canada, and Europe and she has been a rehearsal clinician at the Midwest Clinic: An International Band and Orchestra Conference. In June 2020, she will be President of the National Band Association and is currently the Music Education chair of the College Band Directors National Association. She was selected for membership in the prestigious American Bandmasters Association in 2014.

Charles Henry, Ph.D.: Prof, Dept Chem; Dept Chem & Biological Engineering; Biomed Engineering

Charles Henry headshotCharles Henry is a professor of Chemistry and Chemical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Henry’s research interests lie broadly in the development of lab-on-a-chip technologies, to study environmental and biological phenomena. Major techniques used include microfabrication, chromatography, electrochemistry, electrophoresis, microfluidics, microscopy, and 3D printing. Dr. Henry has published over 180 peer-reviewed publications, generated eight patents, and is an associate editor for Analytica Chimica Acta. In addition, Dr. Henry has been involved in five spin-out companies from Colorado State University with products ranging from industrial water quality sensors to low-cost environmental diagnostics.

Heather Pidcoke, M.D., Ph.D.: Chief Medical Research Officer; Associate Director of Research, Transl. Med. Inst.

Heather Pidcoke headshotHeather Pidcoke is the chief medical research officer and associate director of research at the Translational Medicine Institute at Colorado State University. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, has a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation, and a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Texas, Health Science Center, San Antonio. Pidcoke has industry experience with clinical development projects and has been recognized on a national level for her contributions in advancing medical research for military personnel. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2016.

The Facilities at Colorado State University

SET facility

Environmental Testing (SET) facility

The Powerhouse Energy Campus contains a unique, simulated environmental testing (SET) facility for studying human aerosol emissions and exposures in a clean, versatile environment. The SET facility is one of only a handful like it in the world and has advanced capabilities to measure and analyze aerosolized particles. Data are automatically recorded by a custom-built computer control and data acquisition system. In addition, the Volckens research group houses over $2M in sophisticated aerosol research equipment for the determination of aerosol size, concentration, and chemical composition.


The goal of this research is to reduce the risk of human exposure and co-infection during performing arts events and rehearsals.

The specific objectives of this project are to:

  1. Understand aerosol release and distance traveled during heavy breathing, movement, vocalization (singing & acting), and playing a range of instruments.
  2. Identify solutions to reduce aerosol release and spread while artists perform their craft.
  3. Develop guidance documents that can be used across a range of artistic disciplines


This project will provide a robust, scientifically rigorous dataset to develop solutions addressing aerosol spread during artistic performances. Findings will inform guidelines aimed at reducing risks to artists for use by performing arts national and international governance bodies.

Major Supporters:

Lead Supporters:


Valued Donors:

  • Toni Atkinson
  • Susan Baker
  • Lisa Baldwin
  • Diane Barrett
  • Stephanie Barth
  • David Betz
  • Douglas Boyer
  • Aubree Brasser
  • Myra Brown
  • Jo Anne Busch
  • Beatrice Chetard
  • Jennifer Clary Jacobs
  • Jennifer Clippert
  • College Orchestra Directors Association
  • Colorado Flute Association
  • Wendi Davis
  • Ann Donoghue
  • Cynthia Dotson
  • Mark Douglass
  • Nick Drabik
  • Catherine Flannery
  • Flute Plus
  • Julie Gatesman
  • Elena Georgieva
  • David Hahn
  • Utah Hamrick
  • Cindy Haraway
  • Leslie Harrington
  • Karen Howat
  • Ryan Hyde
  • Nancy Jianakoplos
  • George Jones
  • Richard Kellogg
  • Evan Key
  • Bob Kreutz
  • Sheri Linnell
  • Manchester Choral Society
  • National Catholic Band Association
  • Megan Miller
  • Randy Moench
  • Karen Olsen
  • Jan Opalach
  • Kathy Payne
  • Georgia Peeples
  • Laura Piechota
  • Flute Plus
  • Janet Puckett
  • Louann Reid
  • Randy Rosette
  • Jane Sandstrom
  • Molly Sayles
  • Belinda Shreckengost
  • Craig Shuler
  • Linda Sommer
  • Erin Spencer
  • Kellie Sponberg
  • Cary Stewart
  • Leslie Stewart
  • Susquehanna Chorale
  • Steven Szalaj
  • Adam Torres
  • Malia Van Rooy
  • Kirsten Wells
  • Rosemary Whitaker
  • Nina Zheng

Your Gift

Your contribution will immediately provide for:

  • Salary for project staff (one graduate student, one postdoc, one research scientist)
  • Research supplies
  • Calibration and maintenance of equipment
  • Open access publication fees (to make the data/results freely accessible)