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MRI: Acquisition of a High-Resolution Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer for Environmental Monitoring and Metabolomics Research and Training: Brown University

Kurt Pennell

[email protected]

Recent instances of human exposure to environmental contaminants include the situation with lead in Flint, Michigan tap water and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the Cape Fear River Basin, which serves as a drinking water supply for Wilmington, North Carolina. These cases have contributed to a public awakening and recognition about a range of environmental contaminants. This project supports the purchase of a high-resolution mass spectrometer, called the QExactive Orbitrap. The unique capabilities of the QExactive Orbitrap mass spectrometer allow for the separation of thousands of chemicals contained in a single sample and the identification of these chemicals at trace concentrations. This instrument will enable research and training on the measurement of organic contaminants in environmental samples (for example, in soil and water) and biological samples (for example, in blood and urine). The mass spectrometer also will help researchers assess changes in human metabolism in response to contaminant exposure.<br/><br/>This project brings together a diverse and active research team to determine the prevalence of contaminants in the environment and to advance our understanding of the effects of chemical exposures on human health. The specific research activities supported by the acquisition of a QExactive Orbitrap mass spectrometer include: (a) identifying metabolic alterations associated with exposure to environmental contaminants, (b) detecting contaminants in soil, water and air samples, (c) measuring the contaminant levels in humans, and (d) identifying biomarkers associated with adverse health outcomes. These activities will support research conducted by undergraduate and graduate students, who will receive personalized training related to instrument operation, data extraction, and analysis. The mass spectrometer will be available to both internal and external researchers and will be used to support environmental monitoring efforts affiliated with local schools, research centers and community organizations.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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