(group photo from our field trip to the Blue Plains advanced wastewater treatment plant in Washington D.C.)
Carsten Prasse, Assistant Professor
My research is driven by a fascination with water chemistry and a deep concern about the public and environmental health impacts of chemicals present in our water. My research group investigates the fate of contaminants in the built and natural environment using state-of-the-art analytical chemistry techniques (e.g. high-resolution mass spectrometry) with the focus on identifying transformation products and understanding underlying mechanisms of transformation in the urban water cycle. Even though the efficacy of treatment technologies is still primarily evaluated based on the removal of well-known trace organic contaminants, our research has clearly demonstrated the relevance of transformation products with some of them even being present in our drinking water.
The recognition of the relevance of transformation products as emerging class of water contaminants led to a series of studies in which we investigated the fate of transformation products in treatment trains used in both wastewater treatment and drinking water purification. This was paired with in vitro and in silico toxicological approaches to assess the toxicity of the transformation products. The results have clearly demonstrated that degradation processes can result in transformation products that exhibit an increased toxicity compared to the parent chemicals. This is particularly relevant for the assessment of new treatment technologies as well as alternative drinking water resources, in particular regarding water reuse.
One widely unanswered question is how to prioritize the compounds that are present and how to identify which compounds are most threatening to human and environmental health given that thousands of chemicals are present in our waters. To tackle this problem, our research focuses on using concepts and methods from toxicology and public health. This work is interdisciplinary with the goal of developing new methodologies to inform water treatment technology development, comprehensively assess water quality and characterize the Drinking Water Exposome.
Full list of publications: Google Scholar Citations
Sara Nason, Postdoc
Sara is an environmental chemist with an interest in contaminants that affect food and agricultural systems. Her Ph.D. research was on the factors that control contaminant availability and toxicity to plants, with a focus on wastewater derived contaminants such as pharmaceuticals. In the Prasse Lab, she works on a variety of projects involving antibiotics, pesticides, UV-filters, and their transformation products. Sara has a Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry and Technology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and did her undergraduate degree in Geosciences at Princeton University. Outside of work she likes to dance, swim, run, and play fiddle.
Veronica Wallace, PhD student
Environmental Health and Engineering forges interdisciplinary problem-solving approaches across many otherwise disparate disciplines. As a PhD student, I aim to undertake training and research at the confluence of public health, environmentalism, and engineering, targeting issues of immediate concern in our local community and global environment. My research interests are shaped by the environmental and health disparities I have witnessed living in the city of Baltimore, and also by my long-standing interests in medicine and individual health. After completing my BA in Anthropology at Yale University, I received my Master’s of Science in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. I made my foray into Public Health interning at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, with the unique opportunity to bring experience in biomedical engineering to work in the Department of HIV/AIDS Key Populations and Innovation Prevention Team. My post-grad work has since spanned clinical and biomedical research. I moved to Baltimore, MD to work with Dr. Bruce Hope at the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse, and continued to develop my interests in environmental and public health living and working in Baltimore. Prior to starting my PhD in summer 2018, I worked with a biotech startup in Baltimore. Returning to academia and embarking on my doctoral degree, innovation and interdisciplinary problem-solving are at the forefront of my research endeavors.
Andres Lam, Senior Research Specialist
After receiving my MSc degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Campbell University (NC), I arrived at the Johns Hopkings School of Public Health as a Research Specialist. My recent work is related to the field of Analytical Chemistry, specifically GC-MS analysis and method development that includes solid-phase microextraction (SPME), used to key volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which offers quality assurance for a device that could screen for lung cancer from exhaled breath. My other projects include the analysis of nicotine and its derivatives on a study about second-hand smoking, water-pipes, and e-cigarettes. Before working with the Environmental Health Engineering department, I worked with the Human Nutrition Department, where I used HPLC, AA spectroscopy, and ELISA techniques to study minerals and micronutrients such as VitaminA (via retinol and RA), zinc, iron (via ferritin and TfR), iodine, and alpha-1-acid glycoprotein (AGP) on serum, blood and urine samples.
My goal is to use my laboratory skills as a main tool to conduct high-quality research in the fields of pharmaceuticals and analytical chemistry, in support on improving public health and health-care community. I have special interest in learning and developing new methodologies in the field of proteomics, which would help me expand my knowledge about structures and functions of proteins, and further increase my skills in mass spectrometry and protein profiling. I’m originally from Ecuador. Outside of work, I like playing soccer, video games, hiking, and photography.
Zhuoyue Zhang, Master’s student
As the generation born after 1995, I witnessed the rapid deterioration of river systems in my hometown, Xiangyang, which is a miniature scenario of ecosystem status in China under the big background of high-speed economic development. Since my first research project as an undergraduate student on utilization of Advanced Oxidation Processes with assistance of homemade catalysts to degrade dyes in aqueous system, I’ve been intentionally focusing my research interest on water resource and treatment issues. Since majoring in environmental engineering I have never been more compelled about my responsibility since majoring in environmental engineering majored student after the 12 weeks research internship program in University of Saskatchewan, Canada. It is not because of how interesting my first research experience abroad was, but simply of a camping trip to a small lake there. The purity, the transparency and the beauty of the lake water touched my heart so profoundly that it inspired me to continue my study and research on environmental issue. All of these journeys added up to lead me here to work in the Prasse lab. I really enjoy the interesting research topics and open atmosphere in the lab and strongly believe this research experience will be one of the most unforgettable memories in my whole life.
Ximin Hu, Master’s student
I believe that engineering is the foundation on which humankind shapes the Earth into a better and more sustainable place to live. I always had a strong curiosity to learn science and its applications, which naturally lead me to environmental engineering. My interest in Environmental Engineering deepened during my undergraduate research, which we focused on a natural water treatment system by collecting data from the Qingcaosha reservoir, Shanghai. Since then, I realized the relationship between the water treatment system and our daily life. In the Prasse Lab, my research interests are mostly related to drinking water treatment and disinfection practices used in the food industry.
Rafael Ferguson, Undergraduate student
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so the California drought (2011-17) had a lasting impact upon much of my adolescent and high school years. Consequently, I know I wanted to learn more about the intricacies of the water transport cycle and its effects on public well-being. These factors, along with general appreciation of the pursuit of knowledge through the sciences, let me to pursue B.E.S. in Environmental Engineering at JHU. I have been particularly interested in analyzing wastewater transformation products, as recharging California’s underground water beds with recycled water is an emerging solution to drought prevention.
Marcos Pascual, Undergraduate student