Bioactive Chemical Research

Science Center Objects

About the Research

Bioactive Chemicals Research as part of the Environmental Health Program applies a collaborative transdisciplinary approach to conduct research to minimize the risk to human and aquatic organism health from exposure to contaminants in water resources. the research integrates analytical chemistry, modeling, laboratory-, and field-based experiments to identify and quantify key processes to better understand the complex hydrological-chemical-biological interactions and engineering impacts (for example water infrastructure, treatment technologies, water reuse practices) that occur in aquatic environments, and to develop modeling tools to analyze and predict outcomes regarding water quality, availability, and biological effects.

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an experimental aquarium

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an expermental aquaium. The aquarium is part of an experiment to assess endocrine disruption in fish.

(Credit: Larry B. Barber, USGS. Public domain.)

Key Chemical Analysis Capabilities

A wide range of biologically active trace organic constituents (including pharmaceuticals, consumer products, pesticides, hormones, sterols, and sugars) are typically measured as part of the comprehensive water analyses conducted, which also includes field parameters, nutrients, organic carbon, major ions, trace elements, and biological impact assessments.


Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant

Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant

(Public domain.)

Analytical Chemistry Capabilities and Instrumentation

  • Quantitative, high resolution gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) used for trace analysis of emerging contaminants, both nonpolar and polar (after chemical derivatization steps)
  • Extraction equipment for a variety of matrices (aqueous, sediment, tissue)
  • Characterization of total and dissolved aquatic and sediment organic carbon
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) for high-throughput aqueous and tissue analysis of priority contaminants
  • Major and trace elements by inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and ICP-MS, and ion chromatography (IC)
  • Custom method development
  • Mobile field contaminant-exposure laboratory
  • Whole organism, cellular, and molecular bioassays
  • Geographic Information System analyses of exposure pathways