Archive for the ‘Emerging Investigator’ Category

Emerging Investigator Series: Sarah Jane White

Sarah Jane White studies the biogeochemical cycling of metals that are critical in emerging energy technologies but whose environmental behavior and impacts remain largely unknown. She is interested in metal transport and speciation in natural ecosystems, and its intersection with contaminant fate & transport, industrial ecology, and human health. Sarah Jane received her doctoral degree in Environmental Chemistry from MIT, and her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Princeton University. She held positions as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associate at the Harvard School of Public Health while doing multidisciplinary research as an NSF Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability Fellow. She continued her research and taught in the Environmental Studies Program as a Visiting Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University before joining the U.S. Geological Survey as a Research Chemist in 2017. Presently Sarah Jane’s research focus is the cycling of indium, gallium, and germanium during the mining and processing of zinc ores (of which they are a byproduct), with a goal of understanding the full life cycle of these elements from ore formation, through mining and processing, to their subsequent behavior and potential health impacts when released to the environment.

Read Sarah Jane White’s Emerging Investigator Series article “atmospheric cycling of indium in the northeastern United States” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on atmospheric cycling of indium. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first published article was about what causes Candida albicans, a typically-benign yeast that everyone has in their bodies, to switch to a virulent form that can cause significant problems in immunocompromised people.  That paper was a result of work that I did as a lab technician – my first job out of college.  After doing an undergraduate thesis in environmental chemistry, and not having taken any biology courses in college, I serendipitously had the opportunity to work in a molecular biology lab, and knew that the opportunity to better understand biology would enhance the environmental science that I was hoping to do in the future.  After that, I went back for a PhD in environmental chemistry, where I focused on contaminant fate and transport – for which biology is immensely important!  As my research interests have expanded even further to include human exposure to metals and subsequent impacts on health, this biology experience has proven invaluable. Now my work focuses on the environmental and anthropogenic cycling of elements like indium, that are critical to new energy technologies but whose environmental behaviors and human health impacts are poorly understood.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I have recently begun doing some synchrotron-based x-ray absorption work to determine the speciation of germanium in mine wastes.  It has been exciting to learn a new technique that has powerful implications for understanding the mobility, bioaccessibility, and potential for recovery of a critical element from mine wastes.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

There are a dizzying number of chemicals and metals that we are exposed to on a daily basis, many of which have poorly characterized toxicity and environmental behavior.  I believe that it is essential for researchers to not only study the behavior and toxicities of these elements and compounds, but also find ways to predict their characteristics to protect human and organismal health.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Juggling multiple projects at once, and finding sufficient time to invest in all of them.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I just returned from a workshop on the environmental behavior of technology-critical elements in Croatia, and don’t have conference travel planned until likely the AGU Fall Meeting in December.

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend most of my non-working time with my husband and two young kids.  We like to go on bike rides, hit wiffle balls in the backyard, play music, garden, go to farmers’ markets…

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Baseball radio announcer?  Violin maker?  Physical therapist?

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Research is worthless unless people know about it.  For me, this means working to overcome perfectionist tendencies so that my work is published, even if not perfect.

 

 

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Emerging Investigator Series: Shantanu Jathar

Shantanu Jathar is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and also an affiliate of the Energy Institute at Colorado State University. He leads the Laboratory for Air Quality Research (http://tinyurl.com/aerosol-csu) that performs research at the intersection of energy and the environment. By leveraging laboratory and field experiments and regional air quality models, his group studies the atmospheric evolution and properties of air pollutants arising from energy and combustion systems, all in the interest of addressing future energy and environmental policy. He has a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University where he used numerical models and laboratory experiments to understand the atmospheric formation of organic aerosols from combustion sources. He worked as a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Davis where he worked on improving the treatment of particulate matter in air quality models used for regulatory purposes. Shantanu hails from the suburbs of Mumbai, India. He is married to Poorva (an electrical engineer) and is enjoying parenthood with two energetic sons. In his spare time, he likes to run, bike, hike, and play the bansuri (bamboo flute).

Read his latest Emerging Investigator Series “Oxidative Potential of Diesel Exhaust Particles: Role of Fuel, Engine Load, and Emissions Control” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on oxidative potential of diesel exhaust particles and the role of fuel, engine load, and emissions control. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first project, as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University nearly a decade ago, examined the influence of an updated treatment on the global distribution of organic fine particles in a climate model. This study was motivated by the need to reduce the large uncertainties linked to fine particles in climate models. Over the years, my research interests have broadened to think about the impacts of fine particles on human health. In this study, we probed how the oxidative reactivity (proxy for toxicity) of particles generated by a modern-day diesel engine varied as we changed the fuel and engine operation. We found that biodiesel and the use of an emissions control device (particle filter) significantly lowered the oxidative reactivity of diesel exhaust particles and we suspect that the reduced oxidative reactivity might be from lower soot emissions. Our work provides some evidence that wider adoption of biofuels and stricter regulations on diesel vehicles may reduce their harmful impacts on human health.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

It has to be wildfires. Wildfires are a growing concern in the western United States as rising temperatures have been linked to more frequent and bigger wildfires. Unlike burning fossil fuels in a controlled environment (think of the internal combustion engine), the variability in fuel and environmental conditions under which fires burn results in large variability in their emissions. As a result, there are large uncertainties surrounding the atmospheric evolution and impacts from wildfire emissions. We have a project supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) where we are studying the atmospheric evolution of wildfire emissions in a controlled environmental chamber and using computer models trained on the laboratory data to predict the evolution in real wildfire plumes.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Fine particles when inhaled deposit in our respiratory system and have been linked to lung and cardiovascular disease. However, little is understood about what properties of the particle — defined by their size and composition — are responsible for those diseases and how they might affect different individuals over different periods of time. This, I believe, is an open question and we are not going to figure the answer to this anytime soon.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Very broadly, I study the sources and impacts of air pollution arising from energy and combustion sources. What I find most challenging with this research area is to keep abreast of the breadth and depth of topic areas it encompasses: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, statistics, public health, and more. Thankfully, the vastness is humbling and I rely on collaborations with some very smart people at Colorado State University and elsewhere to bring their expertise to the topic.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I usually don’t miss the annual American Association for Aerosol Research Conference (AAAR), which will be in Portland, OR this year in October. It’s the perfect place to get my scientific fix for fine particle research and catch up with collaborators and colleagues.

How do you spend your spare time?

My wife and I have a 5.5 and a 1.5 year old and we like to spend as much time as we can get with them when we are not working. Summers are the best because we spend a lot of time outdoors hitting the trails and pools.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I have thought about this question a lot and my answer hasn’t changed in a while. I would like to host and produce a science radio show, similar to Radiolab, that mixes physical and social sciences with personal stories. The one thing I would do differently would be to focus on geographies, cultures, and topics relevant to the developing world.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

The one thing I would tell early-career scientists is that don’t take any advice (including this one!) too seriously. Listen, but forge your own path. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t hold any regrets.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Karen Dannemiller

Karen C. Dannemiller, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Ohio State University with a joint appointment in Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering and Environmental Health Sciences. She also has a courtesy appointment in Microbiology. At Ohio State, she leads the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) (https://ieq.engineering.osu.edu/) group and studies the indoor microbiome and indoor chemical exposures. In 2017, she was awarded the Denman Distinguished Research Mentor Award.

Prior to her current position, Dr. Dannemiller graduated with honors in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Brown University and earned her MS, MPhil, and PhD at Yale University in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. During this time, she completed an internship at the California Department of Public Health in the Indoor Air Quality Program. She was also a Microbiology of the Built Environment Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University

Read Karen Dannemiller’s Emerging Investigator article “Degradation of phthalate esters in floor dust at elevated relative humidity” and find out more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the degradation of phthalate esters in floor dust at elevated relative humidity. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

This paper has really allowed my work to come full circle.  My first research paper was on formaldehyde in the indoor environment, which was based on my work in the chemical engineering department at Brown University as an undergraduate.  During my PhD, I began to focus more on microbial exposures in the indoor environment.  This Emerging Investigator Series paper is so exciting because it combines my interest in both indoor chemistry and indoor microbiology by examining the interactions between these two systems.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I direct the Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at Ohio State University, and I am excited about all the applications that we are discovering to which we can apply our research. It is so critical to understand the chemical and microbial processes occurring in the indoor environment, and this has important implications in many different systems.  These processes can be particularly important in influencing exposures of vulnerable populations, such as asthmatic children.  We also need a thorough understanding of chemical and microbial interactions in specialized, sensitive systems such as on the International Space Station.  I am most excited to have received grants from NIH, NASA, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and other organizations to study these interactions.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Right now, very little is known about the interactions between chemicals and microbes in the indoor environment.  There are a plethora of questions that need to be asked to gain even a basic understanding of what is happening around us on a daily basis.  These may have important implications for our health.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

One of the most challenging but also exciting aspects of my research are the unexpected surprises inherent in any scientific dataset, but especially rich microbial datasets.  Often, future grant proposals can result from novel associations discovered during data analysis.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

The next conference I will attend will be AEESP in Tempe, AZ, May 14-16, 2019.  I am very excited to be giving the plenary talk on Thursday morning.

How do you spend your spare time?

I love spending time with my family.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

If I were not a research scientist, I would be an environmental public health practitioner.  They apply scientific principles to help people reduce their harmful exposures.  I appreciate the hard, challenging work that they do everyday, especially in fields like mold remediation.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

I have been very lucky and very thankful to have some outstanding mentors throughout my career.  I would highly recommend that early career scientists find mentors to help them navigate different obstacles they may encounter.  Mentors are a great source of advice and inspiration.  They can also help you identify exciting opportunities

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Emerging Investigator Series: Elliott Gall

Dr. Elliott Gall is an assistant professor at Portland State University in the department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Dr. Gall’s research and teaching seeks to improve the sustainability of the built environment through an understanding of the intersection of indoor air quality, urban air pollution, and human exposure to air pollutants. Research areas include: i) laboratory and field studies of air pollutant transport and transformation, ii) air pollution exposure assessment through modeling and personal exposure studies, and iii) evaluation of building technology and design with respect to indoor environmental quality. Active research includes application of chemical ionization – time of flight – mass spectrometry to the study of indoor environments; a current focus is measurement of source, sink, and transformation processes from traffic related air pollution, wildfire emissions, and wood stove heating emissions. Dr. Gall is also studying the fate and transport of indoor ozone and other oxidants; he was acknowledged with the 2018 Yaglou Award from the International Society for Indoor Air Quality and Climate for his work on indoor ozone chemistry. Finally, an ongoing research area investigates and critically evaluates the impact of vegetation, e.g., green roofs and houseplants, on indoor and urban air quality.

Previously, Dr. Gall received a B.S.E in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida, an M.S. degree in Environmental & Water Resources Engineering from the University of Texas, and his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas. From 2013 to 2016, he was a postdoctoral researcher in Singapore as part of a joint research program between UC Berkeley, NUS, and NTU, where he studied indoor air quality of buildings in tropical climates. He has authored or co-authored nearly thirty peer-reviewed journal publications. His work at Portland State has been featured in local and national media, including The Atlantic, the Willamette Week, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and he has been interviewed on the nationally syndicated Top of Mind radio program. More information can be found at his lab group website, www.pdx.edu/green-building or on twitter @etgall

Read Elliott Gall’s Emerging Investigator article “Primary emissions, ozone reactivity, and byproduct emissions from building insulation materials” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on primary emissions, ozone reactivity, and byproduct emissions from building insulation materials. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

The major evolution from some of my earlier work is the analytical methods my lab uses in this study. We designed these experiments to be similar in scope to prior work testing building materials because we’re integrating a proton transfer reaction – time of flight – mass spectrometer (PTR-TOF-MS) into the effort. A major focus of my start-up at Portland State has been learning chemical ionization mass spec with an Ionicon PTR-TOF-MS, with which we have also been working with multiple ionizing reagents. This research was the first major, research-grade study that we conducted with the instrument. Prior to that, the lab team and I spent a great deal of time learning, reading, and running preliminary tests. It’s been a fascinating, and at times, frustrating, journey learning time of flight-mass spectrometry. With this effort completed, and more broadly our increasing capability with TOF-MS, I’m excited about where we can continue contributing to the field.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Our work with time of flight-mass spectrometry, and the general trend towards real-time measurements in the field, is exciting. The ability to see information on the gas and particle species in air in real-time has been fascinating and, I think, will really enable important new approaches both in field and lab studies. I’m hopeful that we can use the dynamic information from our PTR-TOF-MS to both better understand physics and chemistry of indoor spaces and to develop automated, high-throughput methods that will let us scale out test matrices to include many more samples and with better replication. I’m also excited about bridging indoor and outdoor air quality issues. There’s been a general increase in attention to indoor air quality in the past decade or so, which is leading to exciting new developments in the field.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

I believe establishing better understanding of health effects associated with exposures to indoor sources air pollution would drive better research questions as well as enable better actions to be formulated and recommended or incorporated into building code. Understanding indoor air pollutant levels and dynamics is one part of this, but it will require more collaboration with health scientists and funding for larger-scale studies than have been conducted to date.

I also think better understanding of indoor air pollutant cycling, over short and long time frames, will improve understanding of air pollution exposures and also other routes of exposures like dermal uptake. There are high surface area to volume ratios indoors. There exist many knowledge gaps in understanding how these surfaces interact with indoor air and may act as reservoirs for air pollutants, or as transformation pathways, especially for their role in indoor reactions of nitrogen containing compounds and impacts on indoor radical species.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Indoor air studies (and air quality studies in general) are characterized by a very complex matrix of gas and particle-phase pollutants. Since I started at PSU, a majority of our research effort has been focused on developing lab capabilities to measure things (e.g. organics via the PTR-TOF-MS) in that matrix. We’ve set up the lab to a point where we can measure a range of key parameters of interest: particle size distributions, some approaches for particle composition, and organic and inorganics in the gas-phase. Especially given my position in a Mechanical Engineering department, there’s often student interest and excitement for development of automation, instrumentation, and other tools. The field as a whole has obviously made really important advancements in our understanding of air quality due to improvements in instrumentation. Collecting data is central to what we do, but I’d like to ensure we keep a balance of learning and incorporating methods for data generation and collection while not losing sight of designing studies for generalizable, lasting, and impactful knowledge. Part of that is accepting that you will likely never have all the information you want. I try to keep a sense of humor about the somewhat famous quote “All science is either physics or stamp collecting”, and use it as little reminder to try and think about what kind of information a particular effort is going to yield.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I’ll be at AAAR in October 2019 in Portland, OR and I plan to attend Indoor Air in Seoul in 2020.

How do you spend your spare time?

My wife and I were thrilled to be able to move to the Pacific Northwest for my work at Portland State. We spend our free time hiking and camping in all the fantastic mountains, coasts, and deserts that the area has to offer. The mountain biking opportunities in the area are world-class, and coming from Florida and Texas, I’ve been able to improve a lot as a mountain biker. While summer is a great time to get research done, the perfect weather (outside of our recent spate of wildfires) make it way too alluring to get outside. I’ve been kicking around an indoor air quality in camping tents study in my head as an excuse to bridge work and fun.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I can’t get enough time on a mountain bike, but I’ve also always been pretty cautious person, so I don’t think anyone would pay to see such unexciting riding – but maybe a guide or trainer? More likely, if I wasn’t a scientist I would probably pursue advocacy related to the environment and conservation – maybe cycling-based urban planning. So many win-wins (including for air quality!) if we could redesign our cities around bikes instead of cars.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

It’s an obvious one, but being active and intentional about time management. What you choose to spend your time on impacts every aspect of your career, and inevitably also much of your personal life. There’s no one-size-fits all answer to this, but in my opinion, it’s important to give time management consideration on a daily basis regarding tasks at hand, but also to dedicate time to for bigger picture thinking on a regular basis. It took me some time to appreciate just how long lead time initiating new research can be, and so what you do day to day now can impact what you will be working on years from now, who you are collaborating with, etc. Giving this thought regularly has helped me focus and be more effective, and also with that all too difficult task of declining opportunities, to ensure I’m working on things that I think will be productive and meaningful.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Akane Yamakawa

Akane Yamakawa completed her undergraduate studies at Kobe University, and graduate studies (master) at University of Tokyo, and PhD at Okayama University, Japan. Under the supervision of Dr. Katsuyuki Yamashita, she developed chemical separation of transition metals, and highly sensitive Cr isotopic measurement in meteorites using thermal ionization mass spectrometry. She spent one and a half years as a postdoctoral position, CO with Dr. Qing-zhu Yin in UC Davis at Geology Department. She is now a senior researcher at National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Tsukuba, Japan, working in Fundamental Analytical Chemistry Section of Center for Environmental Measurement and Analysis. Her current researches focus on using isotope geochemistry to better understand emission sources and atmospheric behavior of mercury using Hg isotope, emission sources of long-range transport of particulate matter using Pb isotope, fish ecology using Sr isotopic measurement of otolith, etc. She also involves a project to create environmental reference materials at NIES.

Read Akane Yamakawa’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Investigation of Mercury Emission Sources Using Hg Isotopic Compositions of Atmospheric Mercury at the Cape Hedo Atmosphere and Aerosol Monitoring Station (CHAAMS), Japan” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Mercury Emission Sources Using Hg Isotopic Compositions of Atmospheric Mercury. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I started my carrier as a Cosmochemist. I studied about the early evolution of solar system by Cr isotopic measurement of various meteorites. I learned all manners about research from Dr. Katsuyuki Yamashita, Okayama University. After postdoc, I extended my research field to geochemistry and environmental chemistry. Although the research fields are largely different, research philosophy does not change. About atmospheric mercury research, my previous paper is focusing on methodology of Hg isotopic measurement of gaseous elementary mercury, and I applied the method to this most recent article.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I like to develop and use new techniques. I recently stayed at University of Pau, and learned highly sensitive Hg isotopic measurement. I was lucky to learn the cutting edge technology in this field.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Environmental dynamics of mercury. Especially the interrelationship between atomic mercury and reactive mercury, and the mechanism of methylation-demethylation.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

In order to understand environmental dynamics of mercury, it is essential to have discussions with experts in various fields, and I have to identify my role. Hg isotopic measurement will be a tracer to understand environmental dynamics of atmospheric mercury. It requires many analytical challenges to assure the quality of the research.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I plan to present my resent work at AGU Fall Meeting 2019 (San Francisco).

How do you spend your spare time?

I love to spend my time with family. I especially like to play with my dogs. They make me smile. I also enjoy playing and watching tennis when I have spare time.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I have not thought about this question… Maybe tennis player…?

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Find your mentor or advisor. I was fortunate to meet Dr. Yamashita at undergraduate research project. He had many interesting collaboration works, and led me to participate in some researches. Although I was such like a C grade student, he did not give up teaching. If you find a wonderful mentor or advisor at an early stage of your career, he/she will bring you nice projects with nice collaborators. All you need to do is show your enthusiasm and effort, and keep your motivation high.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Laura Carter

Laura Carter is a University Academic Fellow at the University of Leeds, UK. Laura’s research focuses on understanding the fate and uptake of emerging contaminants in the natural environment, with particular focus on soil-plant systems.  Since completing her PhD at The University of York, Laura has spent time as a Risk Assessor at Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) and as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Adelaide, Australia where she investigated the biological effects of pharmaceutical uptake into plants. From 2016 – 2018 Laura worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of York, UK where she contributed to the European iPiE project on the intelligent assessment of pharmaceuticals in the environment, developing soil sorption models and monitoring pharmaceuticals in river catchments. At the University of Leeds, Laura is currently working on projects to increase our understanding of the effects of pharmaceuticals on soil and plant health.

Read Laura’s Emerging Investigator article “Towards a framework for establishing the impacts of pharmaceuticals in wastewater irrigation systems on agro-ecosystems and human health” and find out more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the impacts of pharmaceuticals in wastewater irrigation systems on agro-ecosystems and human health. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

The first publication from my PhD centred on exploring the role of chemical fate in the uptake of pharmaceuticals by plants. This involved pot experiments to consider the sorption, persistence and bioavailability of pharmaceuticals in soil systems and the influence of this on plant uptake. My research then moved on to explore the factors and processes, which control the fate and uptake of pharmaceuticals in terrestrial systems including the potential for pharmaceuticals to induce sub-lethal toxicity. Our recently published article takes a more holistic approach to considering pharmaceutical exposure in agro-ecosystems accounting for the complexity and connectivity between different sources and receptors. The proposed framework allows us to begin to piece together individual research outputs to quantify the agricultural and human health risks associated with pharmaceutical exposure in agro-ecosystems.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I have recently started at the University of Leeds as a University Academic Fellow. I am excited about the opportunity to develop my own research group and an independent programme of research centred on exploring the fate and uptake of contaminants in terrestrial systems.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

As highlighted in our recent publication we are unable to currently assess the risk of pharmaceuticals in agro-ecosystems because we do not have a high level of understanding of many of the processes and compartments involved in the exposure of pharmaceuticals. Work is urgently needed to understand the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals in arable soils systems and the effects of chronic, low level exposure to these substances on microbes, invertebrates, plants, wildlife and humans. In addition, research pertaining to the fate, uptake and effects of pharmaceutical mixtures and metabolites is lacking.

Ultimately, it is not feasible to experimentally determine all the data we need to fill the identified knowledge gaps, so a key focus is the need to develop and validate models to predict the uptake of pharmaceuticals by non-target organisms. This will enable us to have a better understanding of the exposure of pharmaceuticals in terrestrial systems and provide basis for understanding any potential risk.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I find translating results from laboratory experiments to understand the impacts of pharmaceuticals in our natural environment a particularly challenging aspect about my research. This is an inherently complex topic and trying to account for the complexity of environmental matrices across spatial and temporal scales, such as differences in soil properties, makes for a significant, yet interesting, challenge.

 In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I will be attending the 2019 Society of Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry (SETAC) conference in Helsinki where I will be presenting some recent work on the potential for pharmaceutical translocation to beehives.

How do you spend your spare time?

I love to spend my spare time exploring new places with my family; this usually involves a lot of ice cream and trying to keep up with my two-year-old son.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I am a naturally inquisitive person and wanted to pursue a career in journalism when I was at school but this soon changed to a passion to pursue a career in science.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Pursue opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaboration to facilitate the sharing of expertise across complementary subject areas. This enables you to develop novel and interesting hypotheses. Some of my most interesting research has involved collaborating with plant biologists, analytical chemists and mathematical modellers.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Nathaniel R Warner


Nathaniel Warner is currently an Assistant Professor at The Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Previously, Dr. Warner received a BA from Hamilton College where he majored in Geology, an MS in Hydrogeology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and a PhD in Earth and Ocean Sciences from Duke University. He was the Joseph B Obering Postdoctoral Fellow, Dartmouth College, Department of Earth Sciences from 2013-2015. His current research focuses on using B, Sr, and Ra isotope geochemistry to better understand the processes controlling 1) salinization of freshwater 2) the fate and transport of metals in oil and gas produced waters once released to the environment, and 3) treatment technologies for oil and gas produced waters. Dr. Warner’s lab group has used Sr and Ra isotopes to trace the accumulation of metals associated with oil and gas wastewaters in both sediment and freshwater bivalves. His work has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-USA, Environmental Science and Technology, Applied Geochemistry, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Chemical Geology and Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts.

Read Dr Nathanial Warner’s Emerging Investigator article “Radium accumulation in carbonate river sediments at oil and gas produced water discharges: implications for beneficial use as disposal management” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on radium accumulation in carbonate river sediments at oil and gas produced water discharges. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Based on the results from the first article we expected oil and gas discharges to behave in a similar way, but that was not the case with our recent findings. Instead of radium being associated with barite (which is commonly discussed in the literature) in the most recent study we found the control on radium in sediments was the carbonate precipitation. This leads us to think that each oil and gas basin has varying geochemistry of its produced waters and each could have a different story to tell about fate and transport of radium (or other contaminants of concern) once discharged to the surface.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Treatment technologies for the high salinity brines. It’s a challenge, but breakthroughs and the chance to make a big difference in how these waters are managed is exciting.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

How do we get radium out of high salinity fluids in an economic way? And where does the radium ultimately end up once released to the surface?

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Environmental samples, especially for radium often have large natural variations that can make clear trends or impacts difficult to quantify. We therefore need to make multiple measurements on a variety of samples to get at a reliable data set.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

Goldschmidt – Barcelona and WRI16 – Siberia

How do you spend your spare time?

Outdoor activities, biking hiking, running.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Astronaut- but I suppose most of those folks are scientists…. How about an artist? I really enjoy creating things with my hands so maybe I would be sculpting.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Don’t give up on your career goals, but also don’t be afraid to take an indirect path to get there. All of the experiences along the way will make you a better researcher.

 

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Emerging Investigator Series – Lin Du

Lin Du is a Professor of Environmental Sciences at the Environment Research Institute at Shandong University. He got his PhD in 2008 at the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and then he worked as postdoctoral fellow at University of Leuven in Belgium. In 2010, he moved to University of Copenhagen in Denmark and worked as postdoctoral researcher until 2013. He then took an assistant professor position at University of Copenhagen. In 2014, he was awarded the national 1000-plan talents program and joined Shandong University as a professor. His current research interest is environmental surface chemistry, and his group works with experimental tools to explain the surface reaction mechanisms at the molecular level. He has published more than 80 internationally refereed papers.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Exploring the surface properties of aqueous aerosols coated with mixed surfactantsand read more about him in the interview below: 

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on surface properties of mixed surfactants coated aqueous aerosols. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I worked on atmospheric gas phase reactions kinetics when I stepped into science as a PhD student at Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. My first few articles focused on ozone reaction kinetics and thereafter, through the experience of radical kinetics and infrared spectroscopy studies of the reactions and interactions of the volatile organic compounds in the atmospheric environment, I moved my research interest into environmental surface chemistry after I joined Shandong University. It has been quite straightforward to come from gas phase research and go for heterogeneous study, since both happens in the same environment. This newest paper published in ESPI shows a nice representative work of my surface study.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

It is very exciting to observe a single layer of molecules at the air-water interface, and more importantly, the strong and weak interactions between the molecules could also be monitored.

In your opinion, what are the most important unanswered questions about understanding air-sea exchange?

Huge amount of bubbles in the sea water bring a lot of substances into the atmosphere and the aerosol particles could also “drop” into the sea. However, different chemical composition exhibits different feature in the transferring processes. To make these processes clear at the molecular level and to “sum-up” the effects caused by these transferring at a global scale, would be one of the most important questions to solve for the air-sea exchange.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I would say that, the challenging part for research is to find more tools to complement what we have observed with our techniques. It would be great if more collaboration with the right techniques can promote the understanding of processes occurring at the aerosol surfaces.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

Currently, as a member of the local organization committee and one of the conveners of the “Smog chamber and the related lab studies” Session, I am actively involved in the 24th National Conference of Atmospheric Environment in China, which will be held on Nov. 2-4, 2018, at Qingdao. The conference is definitely a nice place where we can meet. If you cannot catch this soon-to-come conference, I will also show up at the 11th Asian Aerosol Conference (AAC) in Hong Kong, May 27-30, 2019.

How do you spend your spare time?

Spending time with my family is always on the top of my wish list. Sometimes I travel with my 9-year-old son to visit different cities, and I enjoy very much this kind of father-and-son-only trip. Staying at home and taking care of my 9-month-old daughter is also something I enjoy as a father since the day she was born. Bringing my wife to a nice restaurant and having a memorable dinner is also my favorite.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would choose to be a diplomat. I feel as a diplomat, one can bring benefits to general public and a country. Just as a scientist, we spend great efforts to create and spread the knowledge, to let the public all benefit.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

There are so many things to learn as an early career scientist, however there is no text book showing exactly what and how to learn. My advice is to communicate with others including early career scientists, and also senior established scientists. They might not give you the direct answers to your questions, but they definitely can bring you new ideas and help you. This advice is valid for hands-on research, career development, soft skills, and so on.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Annika Jahnke

Credit: Sebastian Wiedling/UFZ

Dr Annika Jahnke did her PhD in Environmental Chemistry at the Institute for Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht and Lüneburg University. She worked at the Department of Applied Environmental Science at Stockholm University as a postdoctoral fellow and research fellow for 7 years before she returned to Germany as a research group leader and deputy head of the Department Cell Toxicology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig. Annika’s current research focus lies on the development and application of novel methods based on silicone “Chemometers” in multimedia environments, combined with advanced chemical analysis and bioanalytical profiling of the sampled mixtures of pollutants. Her main goal is to study chemical activities in order to describe processes such as bioaccumulation in the aquatic environment, internal exposure and effects in marine mammals and human exposure (CHEMO-RISK project). Additionally, the impacts of environmental weathering on the transport, fate and effects of microplastic in the marine environment (WEATHER-MIC project) is in Annika’s focus.

Read Annika’s Emerging Investigator article “Effect-based characterization of mixtures of environmental pollutants in diverse sediments” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on effect-based characterization of mixtures of environmental pollutants in diverse sediments. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article was based on my Diploma thesis that investigated alkylphenols in the effluent of a large sewage treatment plant. Since this study, I have focused on very different research areas during my PhD (patterns of polyfluorinated compounds in the coastal atmosphere) and my time as a postdoc and research fellow (development of silicone-based Chemometers to assess aquatic bioaccumulation). Another new aspect has been microplastic-related research. I recently broadened my expertise further by including effect-based tools in addition to chemical analysis, and this paper is the first product of this novel research theme at the department Cell Toxicology at UFZ.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I particularly like the breadth that I am able to cover right now thanks to a grant that allowed me to take a step further from doing all experiments myself to extending my group quite a bit. This project allows us to work on different aspects of the ”Chemometer” in parallel and to achieve substantial advancements in a reasonable time frame. While extending studies that I initiated in the past, we can also move on to new research questions.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

The Chemometer can be very versatile, but it is also subject to substantial methodological challenges that we need to overcome before we can answer a large range of research questions. These questions include the thermodynamics of bioaccumulation in aquatic ecosystems, internal exposure and effects within organisms and the extension to assessing human exposure. We want to cover both advanced chemical analysis and bioanalytical profiling to characterize realistic environmental mixtures of chemicals and provide a scientific basis for improved management of chemicals.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

We currently face a lot of methodological challenges, but addressing them in a team makes it much easier to cope with them and overcome them. It can be challenging to collaborate in very interdisciplinary teams, but the opportunity of learning from each other is great, and it also helps to hone your communication skills and present your work in a way that is better suited for a broad audience.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I usually attend the SETAC annual meetings in Europe (sometimes in North America, too), but next year I will have to skip the Helsinki meeting because of a research cruise on the German research vessel SONNE to study microplastic in the North Pacific Ocean.

How do you spend your spare time?

I have two wonderful sons that I like to spend my time with. We like outdoor and sports activities, enjoy good food and interacting with people, so we are always on the go.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I believe in the power of images and that they can tell more than a thousand words. Hence I think right now I would choose to start a small company offering the design of science graphics, which would provide an opportunity of still being involved in science. At high school I thought being an interpreter would be interesting, but I liked natural sciences too, in particular interdisciplinary studies, so environmental science with a focus on environmental chemistry was the perfect match for me.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

I think an important aspect is to embrace change and take the opportunity of learning novel skills, exploring new work environments and extending your expertise all the time. Working in an interdisciplinary field is the perfect setting since you always work with experts in different fields from your own, and then you should not feel ashamed of asking seemingly stupid questions to maximize interactions and synergies!

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Emerging Investigator Series – Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan is an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, with a joint appointment in the Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering, and a courtesy appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is also a faculty member in the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, and the Associate Director of CMU’s Institute for Green Science. His primary interest is understanding the sources and chemical evolution of atmospheric aerosol particles, and how this evolution in turn alters the particle’s ability to nucleate clouds and thus alter climate. His research group at CMU develops analytical techniques for real-time analysis of individual aerosol particle composition used in his research. These include laser ablation single-particle mass spectrometry, aerosol optical tweezers, and microfluidic devices for ice nucleation measurements. The multi-phase chemical evolution of biomass burning aerosol from wood smoke is a major current focus. Ongoing experimental investigations include the alteration of the ice nucleation properties of smoke particles induced by chemical aging; and the activation of photo-labile chlorinated gases from heterogeneous reactions of nitrogen oxides with chloride salts emitted in the smoke. He has recently started new initiatives to develop and rigorously test advanced oxidation methods for the biosafe removal of micropollutants from wastewater.

Ryan obtained his Hon.B.Sc. in chemistry from the University of Toronto, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. Before moving to Carnegie Mellon University in 2012, he completed his postdoctoral research in atmospheric chemistry at Colorado State University. Ryan is the recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Science’s Cozzarelli Prize.

Read his Emerging Investigator Series article “Determination of biphasic core–shell droplet properties using aerosol optical tweezers” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the determination of biphasic core–shell droplet properties using aerosol optical tweezers . How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

The aerosol optical tweezers technique is a powerful approach to studying individual levitated particles. I started using optical tweezers six years ago, and we built two custom systems in my lab. One is for low temperature work to study ice nucleation, and the other has better controlled mixing and flow regimes for studying organic aerosol particles; that is the system used here. We recently reported the first aerosol optical tweezers experiments on complex secondary organic aerosol (SOA) that was produced and condensed onto a droplet directly in the tweezing chamber. We found that most of the SOA phase separated from the original droplet, be it a hydrophobic or aqueous phase, to form a core-shell morphology. We also observed strong evidence for a stable emulsified state of small SOA particles circulating in an aqueous droplet core. To more deeply investigate the chemical properties of these core-shell particle morphologies required us to develop the sophisticated analysis algorithm that we report here. This allows us to determine the properties of both the core and shell phases by analyzing the whispering gallery modes present in the Raman spectrum that form a standing wave around the droplet’s core and shell phases. It was Kyle Gorkowski who advanced upon the existing WGM analysis algorithms, drawing on his aerosol optics background to improve the accuracy and computational efficiency of this fitting algorithm.  I have never worked on spectral analysis algorithms before and this research is a nice example of how new scientific discoveries drive the creation of advanced data analysis methods, allowing us to probe environmental chemical systems more deeply.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

There has been a lot of interest in atmospheric chemistry recently in the role that particle morphology plays in determining how particles interact with and affect their surrounding environment. This changes how particles interact with radiation, with water vapor and clouds, and with trace gases that can react heterogeneously with particle surfaces, and the partitioning of gases into organic or aqueous particle phases. As each particle’s composition and morphology can be quite different from one and other, it is important to determine these properties at the individual particle level. Determining particle morphology is quite difficult, but aerosol optical tweezers provides a powerful way to do this in a direct manner on single levitated particles. The analysis algorithm we reported here allows us to better and more quickly determine the properties of core-shell morphologies. I’m excited to continue to use optical tweezers as a powerful physical chemistry experiment to investigate complex and realistic atmospheric particle systems. We’re now starting to use our core-shell analysis algorithm to investigate the interplay between a particle’s morphology and how it reacts heterogeneously with trace reactant gases.

In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages of the new algorithm presented in your paper over previous methods of analysing data from core-shell biphasic droplets?

When we first started analyzing core-shell droplets it would take hours just to fit one Raman spectral frame. We acquire a new droplet spectrum every 2 seconds, and often conduct experiments on a single droplet for hours, so this analysis was completely impractical. Thanks to the clever approaches that Kyle worked out, our new algorithm is much more efficient and can fit each spectrum in much less than a minute. We’re now able to analyze hours-long experiments and observe the properties of core-shell droplets evolve during these long experiments that simulate how particles might evolve during atmospheric transport. We now also have a much deeper understanding of the accuracy of our algorithm’s analysis of core-shell droplets and how this accuracy changes with the quality of the spectral data and number of whispering gallery modes present. This gives us much more confidence in the accuracy of any properties that we determine from biphasic droplets.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Aerosol particles are really tough to do experiments on. This makes this research a fun challenge, but it can be very challenging indeed. A whole suite of expensive instruments is often required to determine all the different aerosol properties you need to know to understand their chemistry. As the submicron particles are so small and have very little mass, they are difficult to study at the individual particle level, and prone to change during analysis. If you just look at the particles they will change; they are constantly evolving. So you have to design your experiments very carefully, and always be open to unexpected surprises. That’s what makes the aerosol optical tweezers approach so powerful. We are constantly determining the properties of an individual particle as it continues to evolve so we know its entire life history. That allows us to answer important questions in a unique way, such as how do particles evolve as they move through the atmosphere and interact with light, water, other particles, and condensible or reactive gases?

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

This summer I’m helping to run a Workshop on “Aerosols and Clouds: Connections from the Laboratory to the Field to the Globe” at the Telluride Science Research Center in Colorado. Then in September I’ll be attending the International Aerosol Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. There I’m organizing a Special Symposium on “Unraveling the Many Facets of Ice Nucleating Particles and Their Interactions with Clouds”, and I’m the Chair of the working group on Instrumentation & Methods and helped organize more than 150 abstracts submitted to that topic. The International Aerosol Conference only takes place every 4 years, and comes to North America every 12 years, so it’s a great opportunity to interact with a wide range of international scholars who are all advancing our understanding of these complex, tiny, airborne particles.

How do you spend your spare time?

These days I play a lot of volleyball (indoor, on grass, and beach). Playing sand volleyball is the closest we get to going to the beach in Pittsburgh! Being 6’3” is a slight advantage in volleyball, but less so for the olympic lifting I also do. I also like to go hiking on the many trails we have in Appalachia.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I had to think about this one for awhile. I would probably work more on developing technology to help tackle important environmental problems, such as improved methods to remove pollutants from our air and water, and to prevent them from being produced in the first place. I suppose that still sounds like science though… A career working with environmental advocacy groups and NGOs to help raise awareness of environmental issues and educate young students and the general public about the environment would also be very satisfying.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

It’s really important to find research questions and topics that greatly speak to you. All research is hard to complete, especially when you’re starting your own lab, so why work on science that doesn’t really excite you? That passion will help propel you through the challenging parts. It’s also important to carve out your niche in research – what will you become known for? That doesn’t mean you have to try doing completely different new-to-you research from the start. Having a good balance of safer close-to-home and riskier but more innovative research projects is a good approach.

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