Beginning a small series of blog posts introducing the newest Editorial Board members of Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, in this week’s post we are pleased to introduce Nora Savage and her research vision:
Nora obtained her bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering in 1992 from Prairie View A&M University, in Prairie View, Texas. She received two Masters Degrees (in Environmental Engineering and Environmental Science) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in Madison, Wisconsin in1995, and a doctoral degree in Environmental Science from the same institution in 2000. Her current position is that of environmental engineer at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, DC in the Office of Research and Development (ORD). Her focus areas include nanotechnology, pollution prevention, and sustainable life cycle approaches for emerging technologies.
Nora is one of the Agency representatives on the Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council that implements and coordinates activities and strategies of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and has served in this role since 2001. Recently she served as Co-Chair of the NNI’s Strategic Plan Task Force, the inter-agency work group that developed the 2011 NNI Strategic Plan. Nora has authored and co-authored numerous articles on nanotechnology in leading journals, including the Journal of Nanoparticle Research and Toxicological Sciences. She was lead editor for the book “Nanotechnology for Water Applications” and has contributed chapters to several other books, including the Oxford Handbook of Nanoscience and Technology, vol. III.
Nora is currently the Chair of the 2013 Environmental Nanotechnology Gordon research Conference.
NORA’S RESEARCH VISION: “Currently the approaches for addressing human health and ecological protection involve assessing, controlling/mitigating exposure to individual contaminants based upon experimental or observed toxicity. Toxicity (hazard) and exposure data are accumulated and risks are assessed based upon single compounds or very simple mixtures. Many scientists and policy makers have called for better approaches for assessing and managing risks to existing and emerging compounds.
The development of “green” compounds is challenged by the creation of engineered nanomaterials with identical chemical formulas yet which exhibit different properties depending upon shape, size, and surface characteristics. As these novel compounds move through and between both environmental and biological media and undergo transformations, attendant properties are often altered as well. Consequently, it is not sufficient to amass toxicity data of the original or starting material if the goal is the protection of public and environmental health. The compound must be characterized throughout all life cycle stages. Subsequently toxicity testing upon the transformed compound or material would then provide more accurate information.
Multi-disciplinary research is required to achieve characterization of compounds through all life cycle stages. For example, engineers can explore processes and offer material mass balances, material scientist can provide detailed data on structure, morphology and other material properties, biologists and ecologists can provide information concerning movement through biological and ecological media, and social scientists can provide critical information on compound or product usages and behavioral patterns controlling exposure. Such research would also derive immense benefits from multi-cultural research teams. As challenges faced increase in complexity, solutions are achieved faster when analyzed by people of diverse backgrounds and experiences and with diverse approaches and perspectives,
By exploiting the novel properties of engineered nanomaterials with multi-disciplinary, international teams examining the resultant transformations as these compounds move through the ecosystem, improved data characterizing the environment will result. As scientific knowledge improves about how altered states of engineered nanomaterials result in altered properties, better understanding of complex mixtures will result. This will enable more accurate correlations of causal links among observed adverse biological and ecological effects, exposure, behavior, and compound concentrations. This knowledge will help usher in the development of true “green” compounds. The ultimate goal would be improved environmental assessments which can then pave the way towards more holistic public and environmental health protection.”