I was born in Farmington Hills, Michigan, however I lived for a few years in Delaware before moving to the southwest of the United States. I lived in Arizona for over a decade and completed my undergraduate education at the University of Arizona during the spring of 2016, where I majored in Chemistry and minored in Biochemistry.
Much of the Earth’s natural resources interact or are incorporated with natural organic matter. Soil and water quality, nutrients, and capacity for contaminant disposal in soil have been attributed to the composition and functionality of the associated organic matter. Natural organic matter consists of compounds from the decay of plants, animals, and microbes, resulting in an extremely complex mixture exhibiting diverse structural functionality amongst a continuum of degradation products. Our group employs Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) as an ultra-high resolution technique capable of differentiation compounds differing by less than 1 Da. We employ FT-ICR MS, operated by the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (Florida State University), with novel data processing approaches to perform compositional analysis of large data sets acquired from soil and marine sediments, wastewater treatment plants, and fire impacts watershed sites. Ultimately, our goal is to elucidate mechanisms controlling organic matter cycling, fate, and interactions with the surrounding environment to better understand how biogeochemical processes affect and mediate the environment.
Non-targeted Screening for Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Waste and Biosolids
Anthropogenic waste streams originate from domestic and industrial processes and includes a large list of contaminants (e.g., pharmaceuticals, steroid hormones, preservatives, plasticizers, pesticides). Despite water treatment, disposal efforts commonly result in the presence of these contaminants within environmental compartments, however, at present, sampling strategies and targeted analyses have been ineffective in determining the extent of water pollution and resultant toxicity that these contaminants bring into effect. These waste streams are processed for both agricultural irrigation and municipalities, therefore a need to evaluate the potential toxicity has arisen to ensure effectiveness of treatment methods and safety in reuse. Using FT-ICR MS, methods for screening waste samples are being developed to identify which contaminants persist throughout waste treatment processes and the impact of the resultant discharge on water quality. The aim of this research is to provide methods to identify potential contaminants of interest in complex samples such as effluent from domestic and industrial waste streams, where results from screening would be instrumental in focusing targeted analysis towards environmental risks.
Impacts of Forest Fires on Soil Organic Matter and Drinking Water Quality
In 2019, wildfires consumed 4.6 million acres in the U.S. alone where California was most affected and suffered about $80 billion in damages. In addition to the damage caused immediately, wildfires consume and char large proportions of the vegetation and organic matter in watersheds that can effect ecosystem properties for decades afterwards. Although the initial burning can release a disproportionate amount of organic matter, the charred residues that remain at a burn site can persist and be unavailable to microbes, resulting in long recovery times for burned ecosytems. These burned residues can be transported by water, resulting in diminished watershed water quality from the addition of ash and sediment when passing through these regions. The organic residues transported by water treated from burn areas have also been found to contain higher concentrations of toxic disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Understanding thermal alterations and the fate of organic matter inputs is crucial to measuring water quality after burn events, however the high variability in transformation products and large number of compounds has made this analysis challenging.
In order to understand how fire-impacted organic matter affects water quality, this research aims to implement high resolution FT-ICR MS to elucidate changes in dissolved organic matter being transported in water from fire-affected areas. Compositional analyses will be performed to understand changes in dissolved organic matter as a function of temperature, and to study precursors to DBP formation.
For more details about the research conducted in the Borch group please click here.
Young, R.B.; Avneri-Katz, S.; McKenna, A.M.; Chen, H.; Bahureksa, W.; Polubesova, T.; Chefetz, B.; Borch, T. Composition-Dependent Sorptive Fractionation of Anthropogenic Dissolved Organic Matter by Fe(III)-Montmorillonite. Soil Systems, 2018, 2, 14, doi: 10.3390/soilsystems2010014.
Meier, A.R., Bahureksa, W.A., Heien, M.L. Elucidating the Structure–Function Relationship of Poly (3,4-
theylenedioxythiophene) Films to Advance Electrochemical Measurements. J. Phys. Chem. C, 2016, DOI:
For more publications in the Borch group please click here.