Environmental Chemistry Lab

Lab Overview

The Environmental Chemistry research group combines interdisciplinary insights from engineering, chemistry, microbiology, and materials science to address pressing contamination threats in water treatment systems and the natural environment. By incorporating next-generation analytical techniques with an understanding of engineering fundamentals, we seek to develop a systems-level understanding of the interrelations between biogeochemical processes and the fate and transport of legacy and emerging organic contaminants in aquatic systems. Collaboration with researchers across NRRI and UMD with expertise in Environmental Microbiology, Materials Science, Limnology, Aquatic Ecology, and Biogeochemistry is a cornerstone of our approach.

Examples of current research focus areas include:

  • Relationships between sediment biogeochemical processes and distributions of legacy and emerging contaminants in the Great Lakes 
  • Effects of natural and engineered carbonaceous materials such as biochar on the fate and transport of organic contaminants in aquatic systems
  • Optimization of filtration materials for comprehensive contaminant removal in water treatment systems

Instrumentation and Analytical Capabilities

Our laboratory houses several pieces of cutting-edge analytical instrumentation to measure organic contaminants and evaluate electrochemical material properties, including:

  • An ABSciex X500R quadrupole time-of-flight (qTOF) mass spectrometer for target and nontarget analysis of polar organic contaminants by liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS)
  • An Agilent 7000D/8890 gas chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC-QQQ-MS) system for analysis volatile organic and semi volatile organic contaminants
  • A Thermo Scientific Dionex ASE350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor for rapid extraction of organic contaminants from environmental materials including soils, sediments, and sludge
  • An LCTech150 stainless-steel glovebox, and CHInstruments 1030C potentiostat, and bulk electrolysis system for mediated electrochemical analysis (MEA) of electrochemically active substances including biochars, minerals, and dissolved organic matter

This instrumentation enables robust analysis of organic contaminants in water, soils, and sediments; including poly- and perfluoroalkylsubstances (PFASs), emerging and legacy pesticides, algal toxins (i.e., microcystins), flame retardants, and legacy contaminants such as polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs). We also leverage the expertise of our collaborators for access to other cutting-edge instrumentation for characterization of environmental samples, including:

Research Project Overview

  1. US EPA Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance Program - US EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)
  2. Field evaluation of stormwater best management practices to characterize the comprehensive contaminant removal performance of biochar-augmented filter media - Minnesota Stormwater Research Council
  3. Application of Minnesota-Produced Biochar in Biologs Treating Urban Runoff - MnDRIVE Environment

Student Opportunities

Students, Graduate Students, and Postdoctoral Positions

Are you a student interested in pursuing research in environmental chemistry with access to cutting edge analytical instrumentation, in a unique location on the Great Lakes known for its rich outdoor recreational opportunities? Available positions for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral positions will be posted on the NRRI Student and Training Opportunities page. Graduate students interested in joining the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory should apply to the University of Minnesota Water Resources Science graduate program and contact Dr. Ulrich regarding their application. We also encourage motivated and interested undergraduate students to send a resume (including related coursework) and Letter of Interest to Dr. Ulrich.

Duluth, MN Resources