Archive for the ‘Emerging Investigators’ Category

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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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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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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Emerging Investigator Series – Amir Farnoud

Dr Amir M. Farnoud obtained his Ph.D. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the University of Iowa in 2013, followed by post-doctoral training in Microbiology at SUNY-Stony Brook in 2015. He joined the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University in 2015 where he is currently an Assistant Professor. Dr. Farnoud’s research is focused on biological interactions of engineered nanomaterials, primarily their interactions with the cell plasma membrane. Outside of research, Dr. Farnoud is an avid chess player and is the former state champion of the state of Iowa. Read about Dr. Farnoud’s research and follow him on Twitter.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Interactions of Engineered Nanomaterials with the Cell Plasma Membrane; What Have We Learned from Membrane Models?” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses Interactions of Engineered Nanomaterials with the Cell Plasma Membranes. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My early work as an independent researcher, as well as my graduate work, focused primarily on nanoparticle interactions with lipid monolayers as a model for the pulmonary surfactant. The first article out of my lab, in which we examined the interactions of e-cigarette vapor particulates with the pulmonary surfactant, was focused in this area. However, I have gradually become more and more interested in nanoparticle interactions with the cell plasma membrane. I have noticed that while a number of mechanistic studies on nanoparticle-plasma membrane interactions exist, they have primarily focused on changing particle properties while using simplistic membrane models. In my group, we have focused on not only on the role of nanoparticle properties, but also on understanding the role of the membrane model in regulating nanoparticle-membrane interactions. This has started from our earlier work (Asghari Adib et al. Environmental Science: Nano(2), 289-303; featured on the cover of ES Nano in February of 2018) in which we compared different membrane models in how they interact with nanoparticles, to the current Emerging Investigator article, to our work in progress in which we have used slightly more complicated, but more physiologically-relevant models.

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

We have found that by making the membrane model more realistic, we are able to better predict nanoparticle toxicity to live cells. This is very exciting because it will help in the prediction of the toxicity of novel nanomaterials toward biological entities.

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

I think a better understanding of how findings from membrane models can inform studies in cells is really needed to move the field forward. While models are very useful to tease out the underlying phenomena governing nanoparticle-membrane interactions, it is important to make sure that findings from models will be relevant in cells. This is probably something that can only be addressed by parallel studies, which examine both membrane models and cells. In addition, I think the role of the biomolecular corona in regulating nanotoxicity is something that researchers have rightly focused on and will continue to remain an important question in the future.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

When I was a graduate student, I was told that “novel research is often focused at the interface of two fields”. That statement is generally true, but working at the interface of two research fields is never easy, there is always something on the biological side or the material side that we don’t know and need to learn. While this is enjoyable and part of the natural growth process of a researcher, it can also be challenging and frustrating at times!

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

I am expecting a busy year in terms of conferences. I am planning to be at the 2019 Annual Biophysical Society meeting, the Spring 2019 ACS National Meeting, and the Gordon Conference on Environmental Nanotechnology.

How do you spend your spare time?

Most of my free time is devoted to improving my chess skills. I also enjoy running and physical exercise. My wife and I also like to try different cuisines and coffees from around the world.

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

Probably a professional chess player. I have always been amazed by the beauty and complexity of chess and I am still considering this as my post-retirement career!

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

Most of early career scientists probably already know this, but it is worth repeating: Hard work always beats talent! The world of academic research can be full of rejections, from papers to grants. As an early career scientist, it is important to stay resilient in the face of difficulties, keep your motivation high, and work hard. All shining stars in all fields of research started out as early career scientists!

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Emerging Investigator Series: Martina Vijver

Prof. Dr. Martina G. Vijver works at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her research field is in Ecotoxicology. An important milestone in her research career was receiving a VIDI grant (2014) from NWO. The focus is on nano-ecotoxicology. She currently supervises eleven PhD-students, nine of whom have already defended their theses successfully. In 2017, she got the EU Horizon 2020 project PATROLS funded that aims to establish and standardize a battery of innovative, next generation physiologically anchored, hazard assessment tools that more accurately predicts adverse effects caused by long-term (chronic), low dose ENM exposure in human and environmental systems to support regulatory risk decision-making. Another milestone is the NWO ASPASIA grant (2013) that she received to quantify joint effects of mixtures of chemicals with low concentrations on aquatic communities. Prof. Vijver participates in eight different EU –FP7 and Horizon 2020 projects. She has over 110 peer reviewed scientific articles. She does a lot in outreach of the scientific results, performing in public lectures, giving tours and courses to school-children and having websites for the main public and for policy www.pnecpro.com  and  www.bestrijdingsmiddelenatlas.nl communicating about science. A notable award is the recently obtained World Cultural Council (WCC, 2017) Special Recognition Award, for research with an impact on society.

Read her full Emerging Investigator article “The dynamics of particle size distributions need to be accounted for in bioavailability modelling of nanoparticles” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on bioavailability modeling of nanoparticles and the impact of particle size distribution. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

During my PhD (2005) I wrote a thesis entitled The Ins and Out of Bioaccumulation. This taught me that we should account bioavailability as a three step process in which exposure, uptake and toxicity are the principle processes that we need to understand. On top of that, each of these processes have their own dynamics. This is true for chemicals but also for nanomaterials. And currently we know that it is even more complex for nanomaterials because they are inherently a mixture of chemicals and colloids and that those come with different size distributions. Well that is a question to unravel step-by-step.

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

That we could track non-modified metallic nanomaterials within alive organisms. That we are modelling the relative contribution of metal ions versus particles to account for the dynamics in exposure. This way we can start to understand the chemicals as well as the colloidal impacts in nano-ecotoxicology.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in developing mechanistic-based modelling for nanoparticles?

The quantification of uptake, biodistribution over time to account explicitly for the correct dynamics in exposure.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Long-term, low-level exposure of ecosystems to engineered nanomaterials will be the reality for many environments. Current approaches lack environmental realism in terms accounting fate, of dose delivery, exposure duration and uptake through food chains as well as ecological effects.

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

You can often find me at SETAC Europe.

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend my spare time with my 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter. I play tennis as a sport, and am the assistant coach of my son’s soccer team.

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

I am interested in many different jobs as long as it is creative.

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

Follow your passion, and try to work with people who give you energy.

____________

Watch the clip below to hear Professor Vijver discuss her research aims on the dynamics of particle size distribution.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Jingkun Jiang

We are delighted to introduce our latest Environmental Science: Nano Emerging Investigator, Jingkun Jiang! 

Dr. Jingkun Jiang is a professor at School of Environment, Tsinghua University.  He received a BS and a MS in Environmental Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University.  He holds a PhD degree in Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis.  Prior to joining Tsinghua in 2010, he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Particle Technology Laboratory of Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Minnesota.

Dr. Jiang’s research activities involve various topics in aerosol science and technology. He has published 90 peer-reviewed journal articles.  He received a number of awards including  Smoluchowski award (2018), Asian Young Aerosol Scientist Award (2015), and A&WMA Doctoral Dissertation Award (2009).  He is serving as an editor for Aerosol Science & Technology, a guest editor for Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, an editorial board member for Journal of Aerosol Science, and the deputy director for State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control.

Read his recent Emerging Investigator Series article: “Dispersed transition metals on a nitrogen-doped carbon nanoframework for environmental hydrogen peroxide detection” and find out more about him in his interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on environmental hydrogen peroxide detection using a nitrogen doped carbon nanoframework. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article as the leading author is entitled “model for nanoparticle charging by diffusion, direct photoionization, and thermionization mechanisms”.  Over the years, our research activities have involved various topics in aerosol science and technology:  aerosol instrumentation; particle formation and emission from combustion sources; atmospheric new particle formation; synthesis and application of aerosol nanoparticles; aerosol nanotoxicology; metagenomics of airborne microorganism.

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

The most excited aspect is to work with talented students to address questions that have puzzled me and others for years.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage of the presented method for the detection of H2O2 over traditional methods?

A grand challenge for many disciplines is to develop/adopt emerging data acquisition technologies (e.g. sensors) and big-data analysis. In comparison to traditional methods, the presented method is an example towards this direction using nanotechnologies.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Finding a balance between working (research, teaching, and service) and spending time with family.

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

International aerosol conference 2018; Asian aerosol conference 2019; European aerosol conference 2019

How do you spend your spare time?

Spending time with family and playing with kids; biking; traveling.

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

A farmer

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

Understand that the challenges can be different when working in different countries and stay focused at the beginning.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Leanne Gilbertson

Dr. Gilbertson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Before joining the faculty, Dr. Gilbertson was a postdoctoral associate in the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University where she focused on elucidating and validating engineered nanomaterial structure-property-function and structure-property-hazard parametric relationships. She received her MS and PhD degrees from Yale University in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, supported through an NSF Graduate Research and EPA STAR Fellowships. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in education from Hamilton College in 2007, after which she spent several years as a secondary school teacher before returning to graduate school. Her research group at the University of Pittsburgh is currently engaged in projects aimed at informing sustainable design of emerging materials and technologies proposed for use in areas at the nexus of the environment and public health. Dr. Gilbertson is the recipient of the 3M non-tenured faculty award and the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. To find out more about her research group, please visit leannegilbertson.com and follow her on Twitter @lmgLab.

Read her Emerging Investigator Series article: “It’s not all about the ion: support for particle-specific contributions to silver nanoparticle antimicrobial activity and find out more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on support for particle-specific contributions to silver nanoparticle antimicrobial activity. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Silver is a fascinating element, particularly when it takes the form of a nanoparticle and we start manipulating particle parameters such as size, shape and surface chemistry. To date, we are unable to predict the complex behavior of silver nanoparticles when they are introduced into natural (and even laboratory) systems. Yet, the ability to do so has the potential to advance innovative solutions to relevant global challenges. One particular challenge central to this current work is the rise in antimicrobial resistance.

We are tackling fundamental questions surrounding the chemical behavior of silver nanoparticles in biologically relevant systems. Ultimately, we seek to better learn how to leverage particle design to tune behavior for different applications. Our work published earlier this year in ES: Nano highlights the influence of different biological growth media chemistries on the evolution of silver ion release and particle surface chemistry, which differentially impacted the measured cytotoxicity of silver nanoparticles. This Emerging Investigator Series paper aims to bridge the fundamental science and applications of silver nanoparticles by identifying open questions surrounding how particle parameters influence cytotoxicity and important methodological considerations towards isolating contributions of the nanoparticle and the released ions. Informed by findings from this study, we are experimentally targeting specific particle parameters to better resolve the multi-faceted, dynamic interactions between silver nanoparticles and microbial systems.

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

Findings in this paper identify key gaps in our mechanistic understanding of silver nanoparticle-bacteria interactions. These gaps hinder our ability to rationally design nanoparticles and tune properties for different applications. As a result of this work, we now have an experimental roadmap to pursue research that fills these gaps and answers critical fundamental research questions. Pursuing these questions will have significant influence on how we use silver nanoparticles as antimicrobials, having a positive impact public and environmental health.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage of using nanoparticles for antimicrobial agents?

Nanoparticles have multiple facets (size, surface chemistry, shape) that we can control and there are many possible combinations of the particle parameters to explore for enhancing antimicrobial selectivity and efficacy. The antimicrobial properties of silver nanoparticles, in particular, are what makes them so attractive for use in wide ranging applications such as coatings for medical devices and food preparation surfaces, incorporation into wound dressings, antifoulants, and disinfectants in water treatment. In addition, nanoparticles introduce the ability to deliver multiple mechanisms of action to a target organism, which is of particular interest to designing solutions that combat antimicrobial resistance. A lot has been learned from the ‘antimicrobial age’ in terms of what not to do. The design of next generation antimicrobials must be grounded in fundamental science and consider human behavior. We are not suggesting that nanoparticles will be a drop-in replacement for chemical antimicrobials, rather that we need to be thoughtful about how we design them, where and how we use them.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The most challenging and exciting aspect of this research is working with a complex and unpredictable material system in a complex and oftentimes ill-defined biological system. There are many factors to consider in trying to isolate particle influences on cytotoxicity, which involves extensive analytical characterization and makes designing experiments particularly challenging (just ask my student and lead author, Lisa!). Another challenge is the fact that silver nanoparticles have been extensively studied and therefore, it is assumed that we know everything there is to know about silver nanoparticles in environmental and biologically-relevant systems. A primary motivation to pursue the research described in this Emerging Investigator Series paper was to show the exciting and important research questions that remain. There is still much to learn mechanistically about how these particles behave and this information is necessary to inform how to intentionally manipulate the material based on the exposure environment and intended application.

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

I always enjoy meeting new people and catching up with colleagues at conferences. This fall I will be co-chairing a session at the upcoming ACS national meeting in Boston August 19-23, 2018. I will be presenting at my first AIChE annual meeting, which will be held here in Pittsburgh October 28-November 2, 2018. I also look forward to participating in the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization conference November 8-10, 2018 in DC and the QEEN II workshop October 9-10, 2018 in DC.

How do you spend your spare time?

In my ‘spare’ time, I enjoy running, gardening, and anything that enables me to spend as much time outside as possible. The outdoors and physical activity help clear my mind and recalibrate.

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

Teaching. This is kind of a cop out because I get to do this now, but it is only one part of my job. I find it incredibly rewarding to motivate and inspire others through science and to work with and mentor students. I taught high school chemistry and coached soccer and lacrosse before going to graduate school. This was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had.

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

Scientists and engineers are inherently curious and interested in solving problems. My advice would be to find a project that you are truly interested in so that your inherent curiosity motivates the work you do.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Liwu Zhang

Prof. Liwu Zhang joined the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at Fudan University in November 2014. Prior to his faculty appointment, he did his postdoctoral work under the supervision of Prof. Jeremy J. Baumberg (FRS) at the Nanophotonics Centre in Cavendish Laboratory and collaborated with Dr. Erwin Reisner from the Department of Chemistry at University of Cambridge. Before that, he was an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow under the supervision of Prof. Detlef Bahnemann in the Hannover University. He received a PhD in Chemistry from Tsinghua University under the supervision of Prof. Yongfa Zhu. He is a recipient of the Marie Curie Intra-European Research Fellow award. He has over a decade of experience in environmental chemistry and a strong background in environmental nanotechnology and has published more than 50 highly cited papers in this field. His work have been cited for >3000 times, and he has an h-index of 25.

Read his Emerging Investigators series article: ‘Heterogeneous reactions of sulfur dioxide on mineral dust nanoparticles: from single component to mixed components” and find out more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on heterogeneous reactions of sulfur dioxide on mineral dust nanoparticles. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My first article focused on fabricating nanoparticles for photocatalytic pollutants decomposition. Before I joined Fudan University in 2014, most of my research work were related to photocatalysis for environment and energy application. In 2014, I went back from UK to China and begun my independent research career, it was also the time that haze problem was very serious in China and attracting wide public attention. I am very curious about the chemistry process during the formation of particulate matters (PM2.5) in the atmosphere. The heterogeneous reaction plays an important role in the formation and growth of PM2.5. Therefore, I started my research in this field, as reported in this Emerging Investigator Series paper.

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

Find the reason and make the sky blue again in China.

In your opinion, what is the most important environmental implication of heterogeneous reactions of sulfur dioxide on mineral dust nanoparticles?

Formation of sulfate aerosols through heterogeneous conversion of SO2 is of great concern worldwide; however, the detailed mechanism is still not comprehensively understood. Particles in haze are complex mixtures comprising various species, and limited attention has been paid to the heterogeneous oxidation of SO2 on multi-composition aerosols up to now. This work could help understand the adsorption of SO2 on multicomposition aerosols and provide important parameters for atmospheric chemistry models.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Sensitive in situ techniques for the study of heterogeneous reaction.

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

Conference on Environmental Science or Environmental nanotechnology.

How do you spend your spare time?

Play with my 3 years old daughter and 10 months old son.

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

Electronic engineer.

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

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

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