Mary Leonard, PhD
PhD: Chemistry, Oregon State University, 2017
Research focus: transport, transformation and remediation of environmental contaminants.
Mary joined the Simonich laboratory this spring as a post-doctoral research associate. Before beginning her graduate degree, Mary worked in government and industry as an analytical chemist. Mary will be working in the Superfund Research Program to identify certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in water.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are environmental contaminants generated by the incomplete combustion of organic compounds, such as those found in fossil fuels and cigarette smoke.
See this infographic to learn more.
Several PAHs are known to cause human health effects, such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. Humans are mostly exposed to PAHs through air, water and food. New research is showing that PAHs can be transformed into different types of chemicals. When this happens, the ‘new’ PAH may be more toxic than the first one. For example, some PAHs can be transformed when exposed to high heat.
Mary’s project will look at known PAHs and their transformation products in environmental water systems. As these new PAHs have a different chemical structure, much of her work will include developing techniques for the detection and identification of these chemicals. For a more complete summary of Mary’s work, please review this technical abstract.