Who we are

Carsten Prasse, Assistant Professor

_JHU1556My research is driven by a fascination with environmental chemistry and a deep concern about the public and environmental health impacts of chemicals present in our environment. 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. One of our main areas of interest is the presence of contaminants 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 emphasized the relevance of transformation products as (drinking) water contaminants.

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 Exposome.

Full list of publications: Google Scholar Citations

Matthew Newmeyer, Postdoc

Newmeyer_webpage pictureI have always been driven to contribute to the betterment of society through the use and advancement of science. We are at a critical juncture where increased attention and action regarding environmental issues are paramount. My goal is to use my interests in analytical chemistry and toxicology to help better understand these problems and lead to actionable solutions. Through the use of targeted and non-targeted analytical detection methods, we can help characterize the compounds we come in contact with on a daily basis through the water we drink, food we eat and air we breathe. Coupling these finding with toxicological testing can improve risk assessments and improve human health outcomes. Additionally, these data can assist with various environmental issues from improving water treatment practices to assessing air quality, and may ultimately help inform evidence-based public health policies. I am fascinated in this interplay of analytical chemistry, toxicology, public health and policy.

Veronica Wallace, PhD student

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnvironmental 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.

Chris Brueck, PhD student

DSC_0067 (1)I developed a strong passion for environmental engineering and science in college after working with a research team to help remediate the ecological devastation caused by the Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills. Since then I have spent my efforts studying the fate of contaminants in natural and engineered environments using both experimental- and modeling-based approaches. After receiving my MS in Environmental Engineering (2016) from Oregon State University on the topic of colloid transport in the vadose zone, I returned to my hometown of Baltimore to start a PhD program at Johns Hopkins University.

My current research focuses on the impact of organic contaminants on wastewater treatment and bioenergy production in anaerobic digesters. As a co-advised student in both the Prasse and Bouwer labs (EHE), I hope to bridge environmental chemistry and microbiology using state-of-the-art analytical and molecular tools so that we may better relate chemical transformations, microbial inhibition, and overall reactor “process upsets.” To this end, we employ high-resolution mass spectrometry for metabolomics and non-targeted chemical analysis to realize connections between pharmaceuticals (human and veterinary) and microbial metabolism occurring in anaerobic digesters. With this information we will propose improvements to the wastewater treatment paradigm in municipal and agricultural settings and assess options for sludge and digestate recycling.

Outside of the lab you will find me playing local gigs as the guitarist in my band or eating too much food at one of the many awesome restaurants around Baltimore!

Zhuoyue Zhang, PhD student

selfie-e1531422514104.jpgAs 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.

Daisy Grace, PhD student

Picture1Growing up in a rural town outside of Reading, Pennsylvania, I witnessed how agricultural- and septic-based runoff sparked an increasing frequency of health advisories at a nearby recreational lake due to fecal bacteria and algal bloom contamination. Observing the quality decline of the place where I spent my childhood summers motivated my intellectual curiosity regarding environmental contamination, particularly as a consequence of increased anthropogenic activity.

I decided to pursue my interest in environmental issues at Lafayette College, where I joined Dr. Melissa Galloway’s atmospheric aerosol lab in the Department of Chemistry. In the Galloway Lab, I investigated brown carbon aerosol systems and their radiative properties to help inform global climate modeling. This work familiarized me with mass spectrometry (MS) method development, which served to identify individual products within complex environmental matrices. Seeing how powerful MS was in identifying environmental contaminants, I knew I wanted to continue working with MS in my graduate career. My work with atmospheric aerosols, however, confirmed my inclination toward more solution-oriented approaches in research regarding the fate and transport of aqueous contaminants. This revelation has led to my current position as a PhD candidate in the Prasse Lab, where I can continue to explore my fascination in environmental analytical chemistry while also acquiring a background in engineering and public health. My current project involves designing a novel analytical platform to detect, identify, and prioritize individual toxic contaminants within complex drinking water and wastewater samples. Alongside this project, I am looking forward to participating in the collaborative nature of the Prasse Lab with both the academic and Baltimore communities.

In my free time, I enjoy hiking, swimming, making recycled art, and working through a long list of recommended podcasts.

Casey Smith, PhD student

CaseyMy interests in environmental materials stem from a passion for solving puzzles and a desire to tackle real-world problems with analytical chemistry. While pursuing BS degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Virginia Tech, I had the opportunity to work at a materials analysis lab in Christiansburg, VA. During this time, I learned about the types of polymers that comprise our every-day products, the additives incorporated into plastics to enhance their properties, and the techniques capable of detecting and characterizing these chemicals. While at JHU, I have continued to pursue my interest in analyzing plastic additives, as well as their implications on the environment and public health.

My current research focuses on the release and transformations of polymer additives in aqueous environments. Despite the ever-growing use and disposal of plastics, the factors governing the rate of additive release and the mechanisms and end products of potential transformation remain undetermined. As a co-advised Ph.D. student in both the Prasse and Fairbrother labs (JHU Department of Chemistry), I hope to bridge the gap between materials design and consideration of future health risks.

The diverse background and collaborative nature of the Prasse Lab makes every day insightful and interesting! When not in lab, I enjoy reading, baseball, watching Jeopardy, and spending time with my family.

Melody Multra, Undergraduate student

thumbnail_image002I am a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major at Hopkins with a minor in environmental studies. Growing up in Taiwan, the prevalence of pollution has always been a very apparent issue to me, and once moving to Illinois my interest in pollution in water and wastewater treatment grew through explorative summer programs at UIUC. Since coming to college, I have discovered and developed a passion for the intersection of environmental chemistry and public health, and the more I’ve learned about the wide-range of contaminants and the harm they pose to human and environmental health the more motivated I am to continue pursuing these answers. Currently, I am focusing on research of the degradation of agricultural pharmaceuticals in anaerobic digestion processes. Outside of classes, you would likely find me running and listening to music or singing in choir at peabody!

Kevin Sommer, Undergraduate student

pxl_20210213_162400459.portraitGrowing up in a neighborhood where there were more deer than people, I have always valued keeping the environment pristine as possible. That, along with my academic interest has led me to major in Environmental Engineering. I want to find work that’s intersects being a responsible member of our community with something I’m passionate in, like environmental chemistry. Currently I’m doing research to explore one of many options that fulfills this to see if it is something I want to pursue in the future. Outside class, I enjoy running or salsa dancing on our school’s Track and Latin dancing teams!

Previous lab member:

  • Sara Nason (Postdoc): current position: research scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Research Station
  • Ximin Hu (Master’s student): current position: PhD student University of Washington, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Rafael Ferguson (undergraduate Student): current position: Master’s student Johns Hopkins University, Environmental Health & Engineering
  • Marcos Pascual (undergraduate student): current position: Master’s student Johns Hopkins University, Environmental Health & Engineering
  • Xiaoyue Xin (Master’s student): current position: PhD student Georgia Tech
  • Annabel Mungan (undergraduate student): Master’s student University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Nicholas Pham (High-school student): current position: undergraduate student University of British Columbia.
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