About Our Research

Our research focuses on the relationship between human social and technological development and the quality of freshwater resources. We are particularly interested in the occurrence and fate of organic chemicals in natural and engineered water systems. The emerging paradigm of sustainable human development recognizes that the distribution of novel chemical entities in the environment is a significant threat to global health and productivity. For example, exposure to anthropogenic organic chemicals in water can result in the spread of antibiotic resistance, the collapse of aquatic ecosystems, and acute or chronic human health problems. 

The three major goals of our research are to: (i) improve our understanding of the breadth of organic chemicals that may accumulate in aquatic environments; (ii) evaluate the determinants of environmental persistence of organic chemicals; and (iii) develop new technologies for the removal of organic chemicals from water. We hope to contribute not only technical solutions to water quality problems, but also to participate in the dialogue among regulators and chemical industries to help establish water quality guidelines and urge the development of less persistent alternatives to particularly hazardous chemicals. To do this, we design laboratory-scale experiments and field studies in collaboration with water utilities, environmental toxicologists, hydrologists, and materials scientists. We have built a strong network of local, state, national, and international partners with whom we have been collaborating to address these problems.

Latest Publications

Oetjen, K., Danforth, D., McLaughlin, M., Nell, M., Blotevogel, J., Helbling, D.E., Mueller, D., and C.P. Higgins. (2017) “Emerging analytical methods for the characterization and quantification of organic contaminants in flowback and produced water,” Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry, 15(2007), 12-23.

Ling, Y., Klemes, M.J., Xiao, L., Alsbaiee, A., Dichtel, W.R., and D.E. Helbling. (2017) “Benchmarking micropollutant removal by activated carbon and porous β-cyclodextrin polymers under environmentally relevant scenarios,” Environmental Science and Technology, 51(13), 7590–7598.

Xiao, L., Ling, Y., Alsbaiee, A., Li, C., Helbling, D.E., and W.R. Dichtel. (2017) “A β-cyclodextrin polymer network sequesters PFOA at environmentally relevant concentrations,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 139(23), 7689–7692. Featured in ACS Editors' Choice (June 6, 2017).

Subscribe to Publications