New Associate Editor: Rebecca Klaper

We are delighted to announce that Dr Rebecca Klaper (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA) has joined the Environmental Science: Nano team as an Associate Editor.

Dr Klaper joins John Fortner, Zhang Lin, Iseult Lynch, Joel Pedersen and Wei-Guo Song as Associate Editors handling the peer review of submissions to the journal.

Dr Rebecca D. Klaper is a Professor and Director of the Great Lakes Genomics Center at the School of Freshwater Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr Klaper and her lab conduct basic and applied research on the potential impact of emerging contaminants, such as nanoparticles, pharmaceuticals, and PFAS on aquatic life, and potential links between their impact on the health of aquatic species and human health. She uses a combination of traditional toxicological techniques as well as genomics, proteomics and metabolomic techniques to determine potential interactions of these chemicals with organisms. Dr Klaper is also part of the NSF funded Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology a Center for Chemical Innovation where scientists are working to discover ways in which to design nanomaterials to minimize their environmental impact.

Rebecca says: “I am honoured to join the editorial team at Environmental Science: Nano, a journal that has set a standard of excellence in publications in the environmental nanotechnology community. I am excited to handle your submissions and learn more about the fascinating research being done by the broader nano community in this area.”

 

Submit your high impact work to Rebecca’s office: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/esn 

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Emerging Investigator Series: Matteo Minghetti

Dr. Matteo Minghetti is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oklahoma State University (OSU).  Dr. Minghetti received his Ph.D. in Ecotoxicology from the University of Stirling, UK in 2009. His diverse postdoctoral work includes projects on the transcriptional regulation of lipid metabolism in Atlantic Salmon (University of Stirling), the use of primary gill cultures for environmental biomonitoring (Kings College London), and the mechanisms of toxicity of metal nanoparticles in intestinal fish cells (Eawag – The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology). Dr. Minghetti is a recipient of a Marie Curie Fellowship (2012) and a National Science Foundation award (2018). His research interests lie at the interface between disciplines integrating analytical chemistry, molecular biology and physiology. The Minghetti Lab at OSU focuses on understanding physiological processes such as essential trace element homeostasis and developing tools for environmental biomonitoring.

Read Matteo Minghetti’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Linking Chemical Transformations of Silver and Silver Nanoparticles in the Extracellular and Intracellular Environment to their Bio-reactivity” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Linking Chemical Transformations of Silver and Silver Nanoparticles in the Extracellular and Intracellular Environment to their Bio-reactivity. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Mechanisms of cellular metal homeostasis and handling have been the main focus of my research so far. During my PhD, I discovered that fish, similarly to humans, take up and excrete copper using specific copper transport proteins (CBP 2008, 147(4):459-9; Aquat. Toxicol. 2010, 97(1):23-33). After my PhD, I began to consider the environmental factors that affect metal bioavailability such us metal complexation with ligands present in the extracellular medium and competition with other cations.  To examine these concepts, I began to use in vitro models of the gill and intestinal epithelium.   This research revealed that extracellular metal speciation is linked to metal bioavailability and toxicity, but also that intracellular accumulation is not always linked with bio-reactivity (i.e. metallothionein gene expression) (Nanotoxicology 2016, 10(10):1526-1534). It became clear to me, therefore, that establishing the link between extracellular and intracellular metal speciation was necessary to fully understand the environmental conditions that potentially lead to organismal metal bioavailability, bioreactivity and toxicity. Intracellular metal speciation detection requires the use of X-ray spectroscopy, a technique that has been used extensively in physics, chemistry and geology but its use in biology is relatively new. In order to access this technique, I started a collaboration with Professor Jeffrey Catalano (Washington University in St. Louis), a geochemist and expert in synchrotron-based X-ray spectroscopic methods. I believe that studies at the interface between disciplines lead to potentially transformative discoveries.

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

I am particularly excited about my recent work with X-ray florescence microscopy, which I use to visualize intracellular endogenous elements in cells. After many years of indirectly measuring the effect of metals and nano-metals in cells through gene and protein expression, I have found it really fascinating to be able to actually visualize clusters of metal ions in the cell with my own eyes.

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

Once a metal or metal nanoparticle enters a cell, its intracellular fate over time will determine cellular effects. For instance, a particle might remain unaltered and non-bioreactive in the cell or dissolve rapidly and induce a sharp biological response. While important discoveries have been made in the nanotoxicology field with regard to factors influencing nanoparticle uptake (e.g. particle size, coating and corona protein interactions, etc.), our understanding of the factors influencing intracellular fate and transformation of nanoparticles is still poorly understood.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Although fish cell lines have proven to be a useful tool for toxicological studies, they lack the complexity of the “real” tissue. A new generation of in vitro models is necessary to mimic more closely the responses of the whole organism. Such new systems will need to include multiple cell types in a substrate that mimics the tissue microenvironment. The main challenge is that developing such new in vitro models requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving collaborations between biologists and engineers.

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

I will attend the SETAC North America meeting, which is in Toronto this year. I am excited to co-chair a session on Nanotoxicology at this meeting and I would welcome colleagues to participate in this session and discuss new discoveries in this exciting field.

How do you spend your spare time?

I love spending time outdoors. Since moving to the U.S., my family and I have fallen in love with the National Parks’ system and we try to visit as many as possible every year. I also enjoy cycling with my local cycling club. It is a great way to relax!

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

I love driving and visiting new and exciting places.  Joking with my wife, I always say I would have been a good ice road trucker!

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

As I’ve mentioned, I firmly believe that new discoveries lie at the interface between disciplines. So, I would encourage early career scientists to collaborate with researchers from other fields of science. I have always found it very informative and useful to attend seminars and meetings outside of my discipline. Other than that, follow your personal interest and passion and try not to be too influenced by current trends.

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Winner of Best Paper of 2018 for Environmental Science family of journals – Dr Korin Wheeler

Congratulations to the winners of the Best Paper of 2018 for the Environmental Science family of journals:

Matthew R. Findlay, Daniel N. Freitas, Maryam Mobed-Miremadi and Korin E. Wheeler,
Machine learning provides predictive analysis into silver nanoparticle protein corona formation
from physicochemical properties
, Environmental Science: Nano, 2018, 5, 64–71

To find out more about this exceptional research work, we conducted an interview with the paper’s principal investigator, Dr Korin E. Wheeler, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Santa Clara University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from New College of Florida, a PhD in bioinorganic chemistry from Northwestern University, and worked in proteogenomics as a post-doc at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her independent research at Santa Clara University focuses upon assessing the diversity of nanomaterial transformations from a biochemical perspective and developing new approaches for characterization at the nano-bio interface. Her lab’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Research Corporation for Science advancement. In addition to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Environmental Science Journal’s best paper award (2018), she has recently been awarded the Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award (2018).

What is the story behind this work?

Initially, we worked to establish a robust method of proteomic characterization of the protein corona around engineered nanoparticles (ES:Nano in 2014). As we worked through the initial data, it was clear that the proteomics database held more information than we were able to digest and deserved further analysis. Here, we’ve applied machine learning tools, which are particularly useful when making predictions with a lot of data collected on complex systems. Now, we can begin to parse which features of the engineered particle, reaction conditions, and biophysical features of a protein lead to the formation of the protein corona population. With machine learning tools it is feasible to imagine tackling the diversity of coronas that could form around nanomaterials in the environment. Moreover, we may be able to gain universal insights into features that mediate formation of corona populations.

Why is it important to understand protein corona formation on ENMs?

The protein corona alters the engineered properties of ENMs, giving them a new biological identity and biochemical reactivity. With an understanding of the protein corona on ENMs, we can better predict toxicity, improve targeting of nano-drugs, and ease design of nano-enabled diagnostics. More broadly, in environmental applications, protein corona studies can inform the use of nano-enabled remediation strategies, design of nanomaterials for agriculture, and prediction of nanoparticle fate in an ecosystem.

What led you to pursue this field of research?

I really enjoy the combination of basic scientific inquiry that leads to environmental impacts. Research in a very interdisciplinary field like environmental nanoscience is also really satisfying because there are so many paths to solving a problem and so much to learn.

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

We are excited to bring this to the next level with a large scale proteomics data set to strengthen the model and apply it to a breadth of materials and conditions. With a strong model, we can increase the relevance of protein corona work for environmental systems, where the variations in proteins and conditions are seemingly infinite. If modeling is successful, then we could possibly eliminate the need for experimental characterization in every condition.

What are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

The field is in its nascent stages. We have established the landscape of transformations that engineered nanomaterials undergo in  the environment, but are only beginning to establish a molecular level picture. One of the next phases of investigation includes insights into the transformations over a material’s lifetime in the environment. Currently, we’ve snapshots of nanomaterials as age and transform in various systems. There are some really interesting studies coming out that look at multiple environmental variables, or exposure scenarios where we can begin to build a moving picture to assess the important features that contribute to nanomaterial transformations and fate in the environment. These insights can help lead to some next generation materials for the agri-sector, which is really exciting.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The obvious challenge we face is the complexity of environmental systems and the fact that the research sits between multiple disciplines. Given the many variables and interdisciplinarity, we are constantly pushed to communicate better and design new methods to tackle complex problems. I find that the most difficult aspects of a project can also bring the most joy. For example, I chose to work at an institution with primarily undergraduate researchers. Sure, it likely slows us down a bit, but at this stage in their career, they are fearless! No one told them that interdisciplinary work is hard, they simply see it as an opportunity. When I become overwhelmed, I just walk into my lab and the students remind me to approach it all with an open mind and to focus on learning.

What are the next steps for developing this work further?

As a communication, this paper highlights the utility of a random forest classification to tackle the prediction of protein corona populations. The predictive power of this approach, however, depends upon the quality, breadth, and depth of our database used in modeling. We are working with others to develop guidelines for data reporting in an attempt to enable interrogation of datasets across manuscripts (for example, see this recent piece). We are also expanding the dataset to include other organisms, particles, and conditions. We can’t do it all alone though. If others have data on protein enrichment within the corona, we’d be delighted to connect, expand the dataset, and improve this tool!

Read the Best Paper of 2018 for the Environmental Science family of journals by Korin E. Wheeler et al. here.

To learn more about the Best Papers of 2018 in the Environmental Science family of journals, check out the Editorial here and view the nominees collection by clicking the button below.

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Environmental Science journals offer double-blind peer review option

Authors can opt for anonymity in peer review

We are delighted to announce that Environmental Science: Nano, Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts and Environmental Science: Water Research &Technology will be offering authors a choice of single- or double-blind peer review for submitted manuscripts.

In traditional single-blind peer review the reviewers are anonymous, but author names and affiliations are known to reviewers.

In double-blind peer review the authors and reviewers’ identities are concealed from each other.

The option for double-blind peer review will be available to authors from 9th September for Environmental Science: Nano, and from 7th October for Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts and Environmental Science: Water Research &Technology.

The choice of which peer review model should be used for each manuscript will be completely up to the authors. However, as an author, if you opt for the double-blind process you will need to anonymise your manuscript before submission, avoiding mention of any information that might give your identity away. Authors who choose this option will be responsible for ensuring their submission is anonymised; we have prepared a checklist to help you.

As a reviewer for our Environmental Science journals, you may be invited to review a manuscript that has been anonymised. All communication with you regarding double-blind manuscripts will omit author and affiliation details.

Why double-blind?

To date, our Environmental Science journals have used the traditional, single-blind peer review model favoured by most scientific journals, and we continue to trust in the effectiveness of this system. However, we recognise that there has been growing interest in double-blind peer review from our community. Advocates of double-blind review suggest that it can reduce the impact of biases, both obvious and subtle, conscious or unconscious, on peer review. These biases could be based on gender, ethnicity, author affiliation, and so on.

 

 

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Nano-Enabled Water Technologies: Themed Issue

Environmental Science: Nano seeks your high-impact research for our upcoming Themed Issue on Nano-Enabled Water Technologies.

Guest Edited by Editor-in-Chief Peter Vikesland (Virginia Tech) and Peng Wang (King Abdullah University), this themed issue of Environmental Science: Nano will highlight recent advances in the area of nano-enabled water technologies and will analyze their challenges moving forward. Example topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Visible-light driven photocatalysis for water purification
  • Nano-enabled advanced oxidation processes
  • Nano-absorbents with superior contaminant adsorption capacities
  • Membranes for water desalination and wastewater reclamation
  • Nano-based sensors for water quality monitoring
  • Emerging thermal-based water treatment
  • Nano-enabled water production from unconventional water sources
  • Multifunctional and all-in-one nano-devices for point-of-use water purification and clean water production

This themed issue welcomes the submissions in the form of research articles, communications, frontier, critical reviews, perspectives. The policy assessment of emerging water-enabled water technologies is also welcome. Submissions exclusively devoted to designing, synthesis, characterization of nanomaterials are discouraged.

Submissions for this Themed Issue are due by 30th November 2019. If you would like to submit to this Themed Issue, please get in touch with the Editorial Office (esnano-rsc@rsc.org) to register your interest.

Guest Editors:  Peter Vikesland (Virginia Tech, USA) and Peng Wang (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia)

 

 

 

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Emerging Investigator Series: Kyle Doudrick

Dr. Kyle Doudrick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame (UND). Dr. Doudrick received his Ph.D. (2013) at Arizona State University where he investigated the use of photocatalysts for treating nitrate, a ubiquitous drinking water contaminant. His research group at UND seeks to solve critical problems in environmental engineering using nanotechnology, with a focus on developing physical-chemical technologies for treating water contaminants and understanding the fate and transport of nanoparticles in streams. Dr. Doudrick is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award and a 2019 Fulbright Scholar. He also has a passion for improving environmental engineering education using virtual reality (VR), including the development of 360 immersive tours. You can view his VR drinking water treatment plant tour on YouTube with or without a headset (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRFBVFBZ1jI).

Read Kyle Doudrick’s Emerging Investigator Series article “protein adsorption and transformation on catalytic and food-grade TiO2 nanoparticles in the presence of dissolved organic carbon” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Protein Adsorption and Transformation on Catalytic and Food-Grade. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I first started working with food-grade titanium dioxide during my Ph.D., where we characterized the surface chemistry and its effect on cells (Environmental Science & Technology 48 (11), 6391-6400; Cell Biology and Toxicology 30 (3), 169-188; PloS One 11 (10), e0164712). What stood out broadly from these studies was the difference between the titanium dioxide in our food and pharmaceutical products compared to the “chemical” or “catalytic” grade titanium dioxide that is often used in toxicity and transport studies. The food-grade titanium dioxide is present day – we are all ingesting it – but there have been few studies on the adverse effects. This includes studies about the adsorption of proteins to nanoparticles, which we understand to be critical for determining bioactivity. So, naturally, the first question that came to my mind was: does the protein adsorption behavior differ when we use more realistic nanoparticles like the food-grade materials? The work we present here confirms that the protein formation is quite different for the two types. Further, we provide evidence that the protein adsorption behavior changes if the nanoparticle is first exposed to dissolved organic carbon (e.g., from a stream), and this behavior can be quite different depending on the nanoparticle. I think these findings have some broad implications that should make us question whether we are choosing the right nanoparticles/scenarios in our experiments.

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

We currently have a project in which we are investigating the transport of nanoparticles in realistic streams. We have a unique site at the University of Notre Dame called the Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF). It has four hydraulically identical streams lined with varying media types, and we are adding nanoparticles to study the transport behavior under different conditions. In collaboration with Prof. Diogo Bolster, we hope to use this data to create a model that will be able to predict the transport better than what is currently available. I think these types of studies are an important step to simplifying the complexity that comes with investigating nanoparticles in real systems. We have already observed some interesting results and the paper should be out soon!

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

As I eluded to above, I think figuring out how nanoparticles behave in real systems will be a critical and challenging question to answer. The myriad combinations of nanoparticle physical-chemical properties and environmental condition/scenarios presents us with an almost insurmountable challenge of creating theoretical based predictions (e.g., linking surface charge to transport behavior). These approaches may be good for simplified lab experiments, but they don’t scale well to realistic systems. So, when nanoparticles enter the environment after being released from, e.g., a food, do they eventually just become like any other metal oxide/organic carbon coated with organic matter or adsorbed to minerals or do they behave differently?

What do you find most challenging about your research?

One of the biggest challenges in studying nanoparticles in complex, realistic environments is the analytics. If you are interested in something like silver, then you must deal with its dissolution and/or transformation, and if you are working with carbon nanotubes then you are fighting against the high carbonaceous background concentrations. Our studies are only as good as our detection methods, and I think this has become a critical area that is not getting enough attention, especially if we want to move beyond lab-scale experiments. These limitations force us to be creative with experimental design by selecting certain nanoparticles and using model field sites, but that makes it difficult to achieve truly realistic experiments (e.g., tracking nanoparticle movement in Lake Michigan or in a large river).

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

I will be at two upcoming conferences: the American Chemical Society in August and the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) in November, both in San Diego. I highly recommend the SNO conference to this audience as it is a great platform to discuss our research amongst nano-minded people.

How do you spend your spare time?

I have numerous hobbies, but these days I rarely get to partake. When I do find some free time, I enjoy spending it with my family and friends, traveling, playing volleyball, reading, hiking, gardening, photography, and playing musical instruments poorly.

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

A question many tenure track faculty seem to ask themselves around year five. I do love research and teaching, but I could see myself enjoying many other professions. Imaging what pathways you might have taken is fun and I’ve often thought I could have been a good tour guide or CIA analyst. But, I think most of all, I would like to have a sustainable farm somewhere with lush, rolling hills where I could write fantasy or science fiction stories when I’m not tending to my animals (and bees) and crops. Who knows, maybe one day I will retire and get to say I did both!

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

How about one big congregated piece of advice? I think many young researchers stress about hitting the ground running so they can carve out their “niche” and work on the next big thing. Instead, I think when starting out you just should focus on a topic that you are passionate about and become good at that. Being a young researcher/professor is challenging and I think if you concentrate on becoming a better scientist/teacher, mentor, and writer, then the rest will fall into place as you gain more experience. And there are many books available that can help you along the way – Boice is a good place to start, and don’t feel guilty about taking some time out of research or writing to read it. Definitely make time for your family and friends and don’t get into a habit of working weekends (easier said than done). Don’t take bad reviews to heart, and in return be respectful and constructive when you write proposal and paper reviews. Most of all, have fun.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Jing Zhang

Dr. Jing Zhang is currently a professor in the Key Laboratory of Environmental Nano-technology and Health Effect at Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences. He got his Ph.D. from Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter, Chinese Academy of Sciences. After that, he worked as a postdoc fellow in the Institute of Complex System at the Research Center of Juelich, Germany. Since 2015, he joined RCEES under the support of the “100 Talents Program” of Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research is focused on the nanomaterials and colloids and their applications into the treatment of environmental contaminants, especially for the removal and recycling of heavy metal waste.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Treatment and recycling of heavy metals from nanosludge” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the treatment and recycling of heavy metals from nanosludges. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Nanosludges are often produced as the byproducts of many industrial activities and wastewater treatment, such as electroplating, smelting, chlorate manufacture, etc. In these sludges, nanoparticles are the main component, which readily adsorb or incorporate pollutants (e.g. heavy metal ions) and thus pose a serious threat to environment. It is a great challenge to treat the nanosludges due to the nanosize effects of the solid particle matrix. My PhD study is about the growth kinetics of mineral nanoparticles and published my first paper on the new theory of controlling nanocrystal growth. In recent years, my research has evolved from the fundamental understanding of nanocrystal nucleation and growth, as well as their colloidal behaviors, to the interaction between heavy metal ions and nanoparticle matrix. The theory of colloidal particle growth and is important to guide our recent studies on how to effectively eliminate nanosize effects in the treatment of nanosludges.

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

To extract and recycle valuable resources (e.g. heavy metals and nanomaterials) from industrial solid-waste without inputting excess energy.

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

In order to develop an effective strategy for the treatment of nanosludges, the most important question is how to uncover the growth and phase transformation kinetics of nanocrystals or nanominerals in the sludge, as well as to quantify and predict the release and transfer of heavy metals from their nano-phase matrices.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

It is a great challenge to apply nanomaterials into solving practically environmental pollution, meanwhile avoiding the adverse effects of nanomaterials to environments. More efforts need to be expedited to fill the gap between lab and industry.

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

I plan to attend the Gordon Conference on Environmental Nanotechnology and the 10th National Conference on Environmental Chemistry (10th NCEC) of China in 2019.

How do you spend your spare time?

In my spare time, I like doing some sports, reading, and of course spending time with my families.

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

I like using my professional knowledge and skill to help people and make them feel better. So, a doctor would be my optional choice of profession.

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

As an early career scientist, it is important to focus on your interest and keep patience.

 

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Outstanding Reviewers for Environmental Science: Nano in 2018

We would like to highlight the Outstanding Reviewers for Environmental Science: Nano in 2018, as selected by the editorial team, for their significant contribution to the journal. The reviewers have been chosen based on the number, timeliness and quality of the reports completed over the last 12 months.

We would like to say a big thank you to those individuals listed here as well as to all of the reviewers that have supported the journal. Each Outstanding Reviewer will receive a certificate to give recognition for their significant contribution.

Dr Wei Chen, Nankai University, China
Dr Arturo Keller, University of California, Santa Barbara, United States
Dr Dana Kuehnel, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Germany
Dr John Lenhart, The Ohio State University, United States
Dr Stacey Louie, University of Houston, United States
Dr Debora Rodrigues, University of Houston, United States
Dr Xiangke Wang, North China Electric Power University, China
Dr Shuao Wang, Soochow University,  China
Dr Jason White, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, United States
Dr Peng Zhang, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

We would also like to thank the Environmental Science: Nano board and the Environmental Chemistry community for their continued support of the journal, as authors, reviewers and readers.

If you would like to become a reviewer for our journal, just email us at esnano-rsc@rsc.org with details of your research interests and an up-to-date CV or résumé.  You can find more details in our author and reviewer resource centre

 

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Emerging Investigator Series – Shuao Wang

Prof. Shuao Wang received his B.S. from University of Science and Technology of China (2007) and Ph.D. from University of Notre Dame (2012). After conducting the postdoc research at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and University of California, Berkeley, he became a professor and the director of Center of the Nuclear Environmental Chemistry at Soochow University, China (2013). Prof. Wang has published more than 140 journal articles with a H-index of 35, and two book chapters in radiochemistry. He is the recipient of the Young Investigator Award from American Chemical Society, Division of Inorganic Chemistry in 2012, the Young Chemist Award from Chinese Chemical Society in 2016, and the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars from National Science Foundation of China in 2018. The research of his group involves in the areas of solid state chemistry, materials chemistry, separation chemistry, and environmental chemistry of the key radionuclides in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Significantly enhanced uptake of Eu3+ on a nanoporous zeolitic mineral in the presence of UO22+: Insights into the impact of cation-cation interaction on the geochemical behavior of lanthanides and actinides” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the impact of cation-cation interaction on the geochemical behaviour of lanthanides and actinides. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article was published ten years ago during my PhD study under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt at the University of Notre Dame, which documented the first chemical synthesis and characterizations of transuranic element (neptunium and plutonium) borate compounds. This research made me fall in love with the research of chemistry of radioactive elements. During the past five years of my independent career at Soochow University in China, my group has been focused on the materials chemistry, separation chemistry, and environmental chemistry of the key radionuclides in the nuclear fuel cycle, aiming at overcoming several critical scientific challenges on used nuclear fuel repossessing, nuclear waste disposal, and nuclear accident responses. These researches are in a more practical manner, in comparison with those purely curiosity-driven researches in radiochemistry during my PhD and postdoc periods in US.

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

Some of the materials and strategies developed by us have found practical applications in the environmental radioactive remediation, used nuclear fuel partitioning, waste geological disposal, and emergency responses during the nuclear accidents.

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

In either nuclear fuel cycle or environment relevant to the nuclear waste disposal, the chemical systems are extremely complicated often with the combined conditions of high acidity/alkalinity, strong radiation field, and huge excess of coexisting cations/anions (high ionic strength). How to design functional materials with sufficient stabilities to survive from these conditions and at the same time can selectively recognize specific radionuclides is significantly challenging and remains highly desirable to be explored in both scientific and technique manners.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The critical challenge of our research is the chemical complexity of the radioactive elements in nature especially actinides (i.e. chemical bonding, redox chemistry, coordination etc.), the scarcity of related researches owing to the operational limitation on radioactive substances, combined with the chemical system complexity we are looking at.

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

I will attend the 2019 Orlando ACS meeting (March 31- April 4) and give a talk on our recent works in the Seaborg Award Symposium in honor of Prof. Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt.

How do you spend your spare time?

Hiking, reading, and video gaming sometimes.

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

Maybe a video game designer or a singer.

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

Choose the most challenging topic in your field to study, devote as much time as you can, and publish your results in the most suitable journals that attract the right reader communities in your early career.

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Emerging Investigator Series – Yu (Frank) Yang

Yu Yang, College of Engineering CEE

Dr. Yu (Frank) Yang received his Ph.D. from Peking University (China) in 2010. After that, he spent three years for postdoctoral projects at Yale University and University of Notre Dame. He started his independent career in Fall 2013, as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno. His research is focused on the fate of carbon and emerging contaminants in redox cycles, including carbon stability in soil environment, microbial degradation and plant uptake of carbon nanotube, and biochar-facilitated microbial degradation of emerging organohalogen. His group also applied fundamental environmental chemistry to the area of water reuse.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Quantification of Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes in Plant Tissues with Spectroscopic Analysis” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on quantification of multiwall carbon nanotubes in plant tissues with spectroscopic analysis. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Quantification of carbonaceous nanomaterials in complex environmental media is important for managing their application and understanding the environmental implication, but challenging. In our first article in this area, we have applied Raman spectroscopic analysis for detecting carbon nanotube in plant tissues with limited quantitative information. Then, through coupling digestion with programed thermal analysis, we have developed quantification for carbon nanotube in our recent EST Letter paper. In this Emerging Investigator Series paper, UV-vis spectroscopic analysis was used to quantify carbon nanotubes in various plant tissues (leaf, stem, and root), which can potentially enable widely-applied and rapid quantification for this important engineered nano particles.

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

Currently, we are exploring application of carbonaceous nanomaterials in agriculture, such as enhancement of photosynthesis, sensor for nutrition/water status and others. Hopefully, we can develop some exciting applications of carbonaceous nanomaterials in agriculture, food and water areas.

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

To my mind, it is important to quantitatively evaluate the distribution and fate of engineered nanoparticles in soil-plant systems and develop cost-effective application for urgent needs in the area.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Carbon nanotubes are primarily composed of carbon, as similar as biological (plant) materials. To minimize the influences of environmental matrix but still maintain the recovery and reasonable detection limit is the most challenging part in our research.

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

I will present related work in the upcoming 2018-2019 SSSA International Soils Meeting, “Soils Across Latitudes,” on Jan. 6-9, 2019, in San Diego, California. My colleagues and I will also chair a symposium of “Nanotechnology at the Water-Agriculture-Energy Nexus” in Spring 2019 ACS National Meeting on Mar 31–Apr 4 in Orlando.

How do you spend your spare time?

When I am free, I enjoy watching movies, playing chess, reading books, and spending time with family.

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

I think a possible alternative career for me is a high-school teacher.

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

At this point, I would say “persistence” is most important.

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