Dominican collaborates with LSU on environmental toxins research project

A joint research project between Dominican and Louisiana State University examining environmental toxins eventually could help develop ways to prevent the formation of toxins commonly produced from Superfund sites and waste incinerators.

The findings recently were published in the peer-reviewed journal Chemical Physics Letters.

The study examines polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDD) and dibenzofurans (PCDF), highly toxic compounds whose formation is catalyzed by metal oxides such as iron oxide, aluminum oxide, or zinc oxide present in the air we breathe or in clay-containing soils.

The first step in the formation of the toxins involves the binding of phenol – an antiseptic and disinfectant - to the surface of a metal oxide. The researchers studied the binding of phenol to the surface of zinc oxide using experiments conducted at Louisiana State University and calculations performed at Dominican in the School of Health and National Sciences.

The findings indicate that the binding involves the partial transfer of an electron from the zinc oxide to the phenol group, in contrast to the binding mechanism found in other metal oxides, said co-author Dr. Randall Hall, the Lillian L. Y. Wang Yin, Ph.D. Endowed Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“The goal of this and other work is to understand the mechanism for the formation of PCCD/Fs with the goal of developing ways to prevent the formation of the toxins,” Dr. Hall noted.

The work is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Dominican undergraduates are continuing the study, working alongside Dr. Hall on other aspects of the toxin project. Simon Chan (‘19) is studying the binding of phenol to both clays and iron oxide. Shubhneet Kaur (‘19) is studying the binding to titanium dioxide.

Dominican offers all science undergraduates the chance to work in the lab alongside faculty researchers. Professors train students to work independently on specific research topics early in their freshman year. This provides a unique experience for undergraduates contributing to the success of faculty research programs.

As a result of this exposure to hands-on research, Dominican students have published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national academic conferences, including the American Association of Cancer Research, the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, the Ocean Sciences Meeting, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Conference.


February 6, 2017