David John Lary, PhD

headshot of david lary

Home Institution: University of Texas, Dallas

Field: Atmospheric science

Current Positions: University of Texas, Dallas

My Driving Question

How can we make massive data on air quality useful to people who have respiratory ailments and other affected conditions?

Scholar Project 


Personalized environmental health on the neighborhood scale & ultra-fine neighborhood scale public health

Numerous studies have associated high levels of airborne particulate matter (PM) with serious health conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease. The goal of Dr. Lary’s project is to establish an infrastructure to provide a daily global view of fine airborne particles, known as PM2.5.

A daily snapshot of PM2.5 would allow researchers to study the epidemiology of various health conditions and their environmental triggers. Ultimately, it could allow institutions to issue personalized alerts when the density of PM2.5 reaches certain levels so that individuals who may be affected can take necessary precautions.

The first step in Dr. Lary’s approach involved gathering:

  • information from satellite-based remote sensing platforms, which can detect PM2.5 in non-cloudy conditions;
  • information from aerosol sensors, which measure PM2.5 on the ground; and 
  • a global, high time resolution view of dynamic weather activity.

Next, Dr. Lary used machine learning techniques to relate the satellite data to the data collected by ground-level sensors. Machine learning, a form artificial intelligence, filled in data for any areas where sensor and satellite data wasn’t available.


David John Lary, PhD, is an atmospheric scientist whose work focuses on using remote sensing from robotic aerial vehicles and satellites coupled with machine learning to facilitate scientific discovery and decision support.

In 2010, he joined University of Texas, Dallas as associate professor and founding director of the Center for Multi-scale Intelligent Integrated Interactive Sensing.

He is author of AutoChem, NASA release software that constitutes an automatic computer code generator and documenter for chemically reactive systems. It was designed primarily for modeling atmospheric chemistry and, in particular, for chemical data assimilation. AutoChem has won five NASA awards and has been used to perform long-term chemical data assimilation of atmospheric chemistry and in the validation of observations from the NASA Aura satellite. It has been used in numerous peer-reviewed articles.

Dr. Lary completed his education in the United Kingdom. He received a First Class Double Honors BSc in physics and chemistry from King’s College London (1987) with the Sambrooke Exhibition Prize in Natural Science, and a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from the University of Cambridge, Churchill College (1991).

He then held post-doctoral research assistant and associate positions at Cambridge University until receiving a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 1996 (also at Cambridge).

From 1998 to 2000, Dr. Lary held a joint position at Cambridge and the University of Tel-Aviv as a senior lecturer and Alon fellow, the highest award Israel can give a young scientist.

In 2000, the chief scientific adviser to the British Prime Minister and head of the British Office of Science and Technology, Professor Sir David King, recommended Dr. Lary to be appointed as a Cambridge University lecturer in chemical informatics.

In 2001, David joined UMBC/Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center (GEST) as the first distinguished Goddard fellow in earth science. While at GEST, he authored the award-winning AutoChem software and was involved with NASA Aura validation using probability distribution functions and chemical data assimilation, neural networks for accelerating atmospheric models, the use of Earth Observing Data for health and policy applications, and the optimal design of Earth Observing Systems.

Dr. Lary’s achievements have been recognized by his peers through invited contributions to the Royal Society, National Academies, and Centers for Disease Control; three prestigious fellowships; five editorial commendations; several million dollars in research funding; seven NASA awards; and more than 60 publications with more than one thousand citations in peer-reviewed literature.

More information about his work is at

Education and Training
  • Fellowship, General Medicine/CAM, Harvard Medical School
  • Graduate Courses, Biological Engineering, MIT
  • MPH, Clinical Effectiveness, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Residency, Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center
  • MD, New York University
  • BA, Biophysics, University of California Berkeley
Selected Honors
  • Patient-Oriented Career Development Award (K23), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Selected Publications

Research Papers

Book Chapters

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.