Archive for the ‘Emerging Investigator’ Category

Emerging Investigators series – Ami Riscassi

We are delighted to introduce our latest Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Emerging Investigator, Ami Riscassi!

Ami received her B.S. in Mathematics from Wake Forest University (1996) and worked in Yosemite National Park for the next year where she decided to pursue a career which would allowed her to apply her analytical skills to supporting air and water resource management in National Parks. She returned to graduate school in 1997 for an M.S. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia (UVA). After graduating in 1999, she worked as a fish/water quality research assistant with the National Park Service/USGS in Lake Clark National Park and as a physical science technician in Yosemite National Park. Ami spent the next 6 years (2000-2006) as a physical scientist within the USGS National Research Program, Water Resources Division, measuring and modeling the complex hydrologic system within Everglades National Park.

Knowing she wanted to work in forested/mountain systems as well as in her local environment, she returned to UVA to pursue her PhD in Environmental Sciences (2006-2011) conducting research within Shenandoah National Park, followed by 3-yrs as a post-doctoral researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (2011-2014). In both PhD and post-doc positions, her research focused on determining the controls on mercury mobilization from the watershed to the stream ecosystem. Ami returned to UVA in 2014 to be a research scientists and Projects Coordinator for the Shenandoah Watershed Study. In this position, she maintains the long-term water quality monitoring program while pursuing additional research questions relevant to water resources in the western Virginia mountains.

Read her Emerging Investigators series article: “The effect of wildfire on streamwater mercury and organic carbon in a forested watershed in the southeastern United States” and find out more about her research in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the effect of wildfires on streamwater mercury and organic carbon content. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

One of my first articles as a graduate student assessed the instrumentation and methodology necessary to conduct automated high-flow stream sampling for trace-level mercury analysis. I then used those methods to evaluate the hydrologic and chemical controls on mercury transport in forested mountain streams. From those remote systems, contaminated from atmospheric Hg deposition, I moved to assessing controls on stream Hg transport in an industrially contaminated urban system and expanded on the prior work to evaluate organic (methyl mercury) as well as inorganic mercury. This most recent article was an application of what I had learned about stream Hg transport, but within the context of a large scale disturbance, fire. I was ‘lucky’ to be working within Shenandoah National Park when a relatively rare wildfire (for the Eastern U.S.) burned one of our study watersheds. It didn’t take long to search the literature and conclude that the impact of forest fire on streamwater Hg had not been assessed and we were in a unique position to quickly mobilize and conduct this study. I applied the methods developed in that first paper to this most recent study; it’s a nice feeling to continue citing one of your first papers throughout your career.

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

I put some research on hold for the time sensitive post-fire Hg study that I am excited to return to now. I am evaluating the response/recovery of streams in Shenandoah National Park from historical acid deposition, within the context of different flow regimes. It’s a very unique data set (collecting high flow data in headwater streams for decades is labor intensive and not frequently done!) and I’m excited to finish up the analysis, write the manuscript and get this new piece of information out to the research and resource management community.

In your opinion, what is the biggest impact to aquatic ecosystems caused by elevated mercury and organic carbon?

Elevated inorganic mercury concentrations (what we measured in this featured study) have the potential to result in increased methylmercury concentrations, given the right environmental conditions and microbial community. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in higher order predators, like fish, that humans eat. The global community is making efforts to reduce mercury in the environment due to the negative health implications, including the U.S. (see MATS standards, https://www.epa.gov/mats). Quantifying the contribution of Hg to streamwater from unregulated sources, such as wildfire, is important to accurately assess global budgets as well as the potential for changes in methylmercury in local streams.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Communicating research findings succinctly in papers. I tend to want to write about every detail of the methods, analysis, and all my ideas of what the results may mean. I always end up writing way too much initially, but then take a few steps back, and return to it (many, many times) from the perspective of a fellow scientist not involved in the project. With that approach, I am ultimately able to sculpt it down to something that is more useful and relatively concise.

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

You’ll have to come to the University of Virginia or Shenandoah National Park!  I was just at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant this past summer and will hopefully be attending the fall AGU meeting in 2018.

How do you spend your spare time?

Trail running, dog walking, reading (just finished Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, wonderful book), and volunteering with the local collie rescue. Vacations are usually backpacking adventures with my former grad school lab-mates.

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

Can I just pick another type of scientist? I think being a wildlife biologist or entomologist would be pretty spectacular. If pressed, perhaps I could be a Resource Manager with a National Park or National Forest.

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

From my personal experience (see my bio), I would point out that there is no one path to becoming a scientist. Pursue the ideas/places/environments/collaborations that interest you from the start and you’ll be led down a path where you enjoy your work and your life.

 

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Emerging Investigators Series – Andres Martinez

We are delighted to introduce our latest Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Emerging Investigator, Andres Martinez!

Andres Martinez is a Researcher Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, USA. He has 10 years of scientific research experience, during which he has developed expertise in the areas of field sampling, development of analytical method and analysis of hydrophobic organic compounds in complex environmental matrices, environmental modeling, and data analysis. Distribution, transport, and fate of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in air, water and sediment/soil have been his main areas of interest, where he has already published more than twenty peer review papers in high impact scientific journals. His research has included collaboration with other researchers in the Iowa Superfund Research Program, IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, department of Occupational and Environmental Health, the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), and Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS), at the University of Iowa. He has also collaborated with researchers in the department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin and researchers from the Department of Environmental Health, Boston University

 

Read his Emerging Investigators series article “Development and application of polymeric electrospun nanofiber mats as equilibrium-passive sampler media for organic compounds” and find out more about his research in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the role of the use of polymeric electrospun nanofiber mats for monitoring environmental organic compounds. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

It is quite different. Most of my research focus on measuring and modelling PCBs and other POPs in the environment (air, water, sediment) using already tested active and passive sampling methods. Here, we developed “from scratch” a novel passive method to measure more polar organic compounds in water and sediment systems.

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

Exploring new research ideas.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage of using nanofiber mats over traditional organic compound sampling mediums?

As we emphasize in the paper, the idea of fabricating electrospun nanofiber mats (ENM) that sample during the equilibrium stage, which minimizes the uncertainty when calculating the environmental concentration. It is very promising (i.e., shorter field deployments and easier analytical detection). In addition to the ENM high surface area-to-volume ratios (S/V), that is a faster sampler, we can improve their uptake performance through surface chemical functionalization and addition of nanoparticles.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Generate interesting research questions that can be funded.

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

SETAC Minneapolis.

How do you spend your spare time?

With my family.

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

Good question. Outdoor photographer…

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

Develop new collaborations

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Emerging Investigators series – Anke Neumann

 

We are delighted to introduce our latest Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Emerging Investigator, Anke Neumann!

Anke Neumann is an environmental chemist (MSc in Chemistry from ETH Zurich, 2004) and received her PhD from ETH Zurich (2009). She carried out postdoctoral research in Bangladesh (freelance, 2009-2011) and at the University of Iowa (fellowships, 2011-2013). In 2014, Anke joined Newcastle University as a Lecturer in Environmental Engineering.

Her research focuses on redox processes at the mineral-water interface and how these processes affect the fate of organic and inorganic compounds in the environment. For more details, visit her research group’s website

Read her Emerging Investigators series article “As(V) in magnetite: incorporation and redistribution” and find out more about her research in the interview below:

 

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on sorbed and incorporated As on magnetite and the effect of Fe minerals on As mobility in natural systems. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article was based on my MSc work on the redox reactivity of Fe(II) species associated with Fe-bearing clay minerals and I have worked on redox reactions of Fe minerals and their effect on contaminant fate ever since. I started working on the interactions between Fe minerals and As after my PhD, when I led and conducted a long-term field project investigating As removal from drinking water with zero-valent iron-based filters in Bangladesh. It was then lucky coincidence that I arrived in Michelle Scherer’s lab as a postdoc just as Brittany Huhmann was beginning her MSc project on As-magnetite interactions, which provided the data for this most recent article.

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

I am actually excited about two projects. On the one hand, my PhD students have been producing very interesting results from their work on contaminant degradation with Fe-bearing clay minerals that they reduced with dissolved Fe(II). On the other hand, I am also interested in oxygenation reactions of Fe(II)-bearing clay minerals, which have long been overlooked and are now – finally – enjoying increasing attention. So, this new field is expanding and quickly gaining momentum, and I am excited to contribute to further developing this field.

In your opinion, what is the potential impact of your findings on groundwater quality?

I do not think that our findings will change groundwater quality per se but rather increase our understanding of how and where As is sequestered in the environment, for example an aquifer. The new insights will also help us to design and engineer sequestration pathways, be it in situ in the aquifer or once the water has been pumped to the surface. This will be particularly important when we think about water management for the future, which will likely include approaches such as managed aquifer recharge or aquifer storage and recovery and produce conditions under which As sequestration into magnetite could occur.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Most of my research focuses on understanding reactions mechanisms and how things work at a very fundamental level. I find it sometimes difficult to convince others of the significance and relevance of my research to environmental issues and ‘real-world’ problems.

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

I usually attend one or two conferences a year, such as Goldschmidt, ACS National Meetings, or the Clay Minerals Society Annual Meeting. My ‘conference season’ has just ended with the start of the new semester and so far, the only set event this year is the biennially held Iron Biogeochemistry workshop.

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend most of my free time with my family. Seeing my daughter (4) grow up, exploring the world, and, just recently, starting school is my reality check and spending time with her makes me realize the (other) really important things in life.

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

This is one of the most difficult questions for me – I never really considered any other profession. I think that if I had to quit being a scientist, I would need to do something really different but I also enjoy creating ‘TOC art’ and similar, although I am not sure that I am sufficiently artistic to make this a profession.

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

As a scientist, your work is constantly being judged: prepare yourself for harsh criticism and also failure to convince, for example reviewers of your papers or grant applications. When I am faced with rejection, I find it important to be able to tap into a broad variety of support: from my colleagues who have been in the same situation and cheer me on; from my friends who engage me in a life outside of academia; and, most importantly, from my family who so naturally confront me with a totally different perspective on things.

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Emerging Investigators Series: Yu (Frank) Yang

 

Yu (Frank) Yang is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, working in the Civil and Engineering Department. Prior to this, he completed both his undergraduate studies and PhD at Peking University, China. His current research interests include: the impact of global climate change on the fate of critical pollutants; the response of organic matter geochemistry to the temperature increases; and the colloid-facilitated reactive transport of insoluble radionuclides.

Read his Emerging Investigators article “Dual role of organic matter in the anaerobic degradation of triclosan” and find ourmore about Frank and his research in the interview below:

Are you within 10 years of receiving your PhD? Do you have an independent research career? Then you could be eligible for our Emerging Investigator Series! find out more at rsc.li/emerging-espi

 

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the role of organic matter in the anaerobic degradation of triclosan. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first research paper is about the human exposure to legacy pesticides (e.g. DDT) and their health risk. My Ph.D. studies and postdoctoral projects are mainly focused on the organic matter-mediated fate and transport of organic and inorganic pollutants. In this paper, we have found an interesting novel dual role of organic matter in the degradation of an emerging organohalide compound.

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

In my research group, we are mainly working on the important environmental redox reactions, focusing on the degradation of organohalides, microbial assimilation and plant uptake of carbon nanomaterials, and stability of soil organic carbon. We are currently using lots of state-of-the-art technologies to study the transformation of organohalides and natural organic carbon, which is really exciting to us.

In your opinion, what is the biggest impact to the environment presented by antimicrobial agents?

Release of antimicrobial agents can induce the development of antimicrobial resistance, which is one of the biggest environmental problems.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I would like to fully understand the degradation pathways of emerging organohalides and work out cost-effective removal strategies. Both are challenging tasks.

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

My group and I will present our work (6 talks and 3 posters) at American Chemical Society 2017 Spring Meeting (April 2-6, 2017, San Francisco). I am also chairing two symposia with my colleagues, with one for redox reactions and the other for nanomaterials.

How do you spend your spare time?

When I have spare time, I enjoy watching movies, playing chess, and spending time with my family.

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

Without science, probably I would become a high-school teacher.

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

Have a good balance and be persistent. Balance between the crazy ideas and relatively “low-risk” projects, balance between pursuing grants and publishing papers, balance between research and teaching, and many others

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Emerging Investigator Series: Cora Young

We are delighted to be able to bring you the first in interview for our Emerging Investigators Series in Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts

Cora completed her undergraduate and doctoral studies in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Under the supervision of Prof. Scott Mabury, her Ph.D. research focused on the atmospheric chemistry of polyfluorinated compounds and their role as long-lived greenhouse gases and sources of persistent compounds to the environment. She went on to a postdoctoral position in Boulder, CO with Dr. Steven Brown at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There, she developed novel, state-of-the-science instruments and used them to measure reactive atmospheric trace gases and determine their impact on the oxidative potential of the atmosphere. Cora joined the Department of Chemistry at Memorial University as an Assistant Professor in September 2012.

Read her Emerging Investigators article “A 14-year depositional ice record of perfluoroalkyl substances in the High Arctic“, which is featured in Issue 1 of the journal, and find out more in the interview below:

Are you within 10 years of receiving your PhD? Do you have an independent research career? Then you could be eligible for our Emerging Investigator Series! find out more at rsc.li/emerging-espi

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on improving the understanding of transport of perfluoroalkyl substances in the High Arctic. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

One of my first papers as a graduate student also involved looking at long-range transport of perfluoroalkyl substances to the Devon Ice Cap and was published ten years ago. As instrumentation improves and we develop better analytical methods, we are able to learn so much more about how pollutants impact our environment. We were able to look at four times as many chemical species as the original study, which greatly increases our understanding of the environmental fate of these compounds. We have also expanded our research network to include Northern community members and Arctic researchers with complementary expertise, which allows us to interpret and apply our results more effectively.

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

We have some new environmental field and laboratory samples, including ice cores and biomass burning smoke samples, that I am excited to analyze using analytical techniques recently developed in my group.

In your opinion, what is the biggest impact to the environment presented by perfluoroalkyl substances?

Perfluorinated compounds have no natural degradation pathways in the environment. When we emit these chemicals to the environment, they will remain for the foreseeable future. We know that many perfluoroalkyl molecules bioaccumulate and could affect the health of humans or animals, which is cause for concern because there is no going back to an environment uncontaminated with these chemical species.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I find field work simultaneously the most rewarding and the most difficult aspect of my research. Addressing environmental chemistry questions often means challenging collection of samples (such as those from ice caps) or the design and/or operation of complex instrumentation under harsh conditions.

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

Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario (June 2017) and Healthy Buildings Europe in Lublin, Poland (July 2017). I can also be found online at cjygroup.com and on Twitter @SVOCora.

How do you spend your spare time?

I don’t have too much of it right now! When I do have free time, I enjoy travelling, walking, hiking, reading, and yoga.

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

It’s hard to imagine my life without science! If I wasn’t a scientist, I would want to do something that still involved science, like science communication or conservation management.

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

Seek out a supportive career network of mentors, collaborators, and colleagues. I have been fortunate to have wonderful mentors from my doctoral and post-doctoral work, and throughout the environmental chemistry community. My excellent collaborators from other academic institutions, Environment Canada (who were collaborators on this project), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration improve the quality and impact of my research and make it more fun to do!

To find out more about the series and submit an article, click here.

 

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Emerging Investigator Series for Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts

Desiree Plata (Yale University) will be overseeing this series and reviewing applications.

Some of the best work in the field of Environmental Science being conducted by early-career researchers was showcased in the Emerging Investigators Issue of Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. As highlighted in the Editorial introducing this issue, starting in 2017, we will be running an Emerging Investigator Series, similar to the successful series of our sister journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology (http://rsc.li/emerging-series). This continuous format is designed to allow more flexibility for contributors to participate in the venture without the restriction of submission deadlines and benefit the Environmental Science community through continued exposure to the exciting work being done by its early-career members.

With the introduction of this new Series, we are delighted to announce that Desiree Plata will be taking on the role of Emerging Investigator Series Editor. Desiree has been an active member of the Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Editorial Board for over a year and will be overseeing this Series and reviewing applications going forward.

Desiree adds: “I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to build a rigorous series that highlights the most exciting advances in their research. In addition, I hope that the Series will inspire future research directions by identifying needs and synergies in the cross-cutting intellectual spaces we are defining as a community.”

To be eligible for the new Emerging Investigator Series you will need to have completed your PhD (or equivalent degree) within the last 10 years and have an independent career. If you are interested in contributing to the Series please contact the Editorial Office (espi-rsc@rsc.org) and provide the following information:

  • Your up-to-date CV (no longer than 2 pages), which should include a summary of education and career, a list of relevant publications, any notable awards, honours or professional activities in the field, and a website URL if relevant;
  • A synopsis of the article intended to be submitted to the Series, including a tentative submission date. This can be an original research or review article. Please visit the journal website for more details on article types.All articles published as part of the Emerging Investigator Series will be widely promoted and will be collated together on the Journal website. Please note that articles submitted to the journal for the Series will undergo the usual peer-review process.

We hope you enjoy reading the final Emerging Investigators issue in its current form; please contact the Editorial Office (espi-rsc@rsc.org) if you are interested to contribute to the Emerging Investigators Series.

Keep up to date with the latest papers added to this Series on our twitter feed (@EnvSciRSC) with the hashtags #EmergingInvestigators #ESPI

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