Research Topics

Research Summary Figure 2014

Research Overview

The objective of our research activities is to obtain a mechanistic understanding of the “why” and “how” of the environmental behavior of biologically-active organic molecules with implications for environmental contamination, soil fertility, agricultural productivity, and ecosystem health. We are particularly interested in the fate and effects of organic contaminants including herbicides, antibiotics and natural toxins and in the reactivity and fate of important organic substrates and macromolecules in environmental matrices. Our investigative approaches employ a combination of experimental and computational techniques to resolve the mechanisms of the chemical and biochemical interactions relevant to the environmental chemistry and toxicology of these molecules. The long-term goal of our research is to achieve a mechanism-based quantitative evaluation of the potential implications of these bioactive molecules for environmental fate and exposure, chemical transformation, biotechnology, ecosystem health, and carbon dynamics in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

Research Techniques

Environmental Chemistry: X-ray diffraction; Solid-State NMR; Liquid-State NMR; Fluorescence quenching spectroscopy; Infrared spectroscopy; Molecular dynamics simulations.

Environmental Biochemistry: Metabolomics; Liquid-chromatography-mass spectrometry, liquid-state NMR; Flux modeling of metabolic network; Molecular docking simulations.

Current Research Activities

Microbial Carbon Metabolism of Organic Substrates
Rebecca Wilkes (Graduate researcher)
Caroll Mendonca (Graduate researcher)
Annie Werner (Undergraduate researcher)

Biochemical Responses to Organic Contaminants
Rebecca Wilkes (Graduate researcher)
Caroll Mendonca (Graduate researcher)
Bridget Jones (upcoming undergraduate researcher)

Molecular Chemistry of Natural Organic Matter and Macromolecules
Annaleise Klein (Postdoctoral researcher)
Mina Sohltalab (Graduate researcher)
Reid Balkind (Undergraduate researcher)
Yeonsoo Park (Undergraduate researcher)

Organic Contaminant Interactions on Mineral Surfaces
Annaleise Klein (Postdoctoral researcher)
Michael Glaser(Graduate Researcher)
Irene Sarri (Undergraduate researcher)
Ananya Gangadhar (Undergraduate Research)
Shreya Vaidya (upcoming undergraduate researcher)

Trapping of Biomolecules at Mineral Interfaces
Annaleise Klein (Postdoctoral researcher)
Eleanor Bakker (Postdoctoral researcher)
Sabrina Kelch (Graduate Researcher)
Ananya Gangadhar (Undergraduate Research)


Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometery (LC/MS), Thermo Scientific Q Exactive
The Q Exactive LC/MS is used for precise measurements of targeted and non-targeted analytes using reverse-phase liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. This instrument is applied to determine the identity and abundance of intra and extracellular metabolites in order to monitor bacterial metabolism and contaminant degradation.
Powder X-ray Diffractometer (XRD), Bruker D8 Advance
The XRD is used to monitor interactions of organic substrates and contaminants with expandable clay minerals. Our XRD instrument is equipped with temperature-humidity stage to allow control of both temperature and moisture levels during the run.
Fluorescence Spectrophotometer, Agilent Technologies Cary Eclipse
The fluorescence spectrophotometer is used to monitor levels and/or changes in fluorescing organic molecules.
Incubator Shaker, New Brunswick Scientific
Our lab is equipped with several incubator shakers to maintain different growth conditions for our bacterial work.

The Lab