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Techniques & Tools Micro/Nano-scale, Chemical, Technology

Opening Up Environmental Analysis

Airborne particulate matter (PM) is dangerous to humans, and represents a significant source of exposure because of its ubiquity and chemical complexity. Tens of thousands of compounds ranging from relatively harmless (for example, Cl- and Na+) to toxic (for example, polyaromatic hydrocarbons) have been identified in PM studies. Airborne metals (for example, copper, chromium, and nickel) are also common in PM and are consistently identified as contributing factors to daily morbidity and mortality. Yet, despite the relatively high rates of such diseases, our inefficient paradigm for assessing exposure has remained relatively unchanged for the past 25 years. We still do not fully understand, mechanistically, how PM (and its chemical constituents) adversely affects the body, nor do we understand which of the thousands of sources of PM should be targeted for reduction to improve health.

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About the Authors

author david cate

David Cate

David Cate attended the University of Washington in 2005 where he received his bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering. From there he moved south to the University of Colorado where he developed polymer microfluidic technology for sorting single mammalian cells under the direction of Ralph Jimenez. He then ventured 50 miles north to Colorado State University to pursue his doctoral degree under Chuck Henry and John Volckens. “The techniques used for personal exposure assessment are beginning to change, and I hope we can contribute in a meaningful way to this exciting field.”  


author john volkens

John Volckens

John Volckens is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Health Sciences at Colorado State University. “Growing up with asthma made me very sensitive to my environment, especially to air pollution, which is why I work on these problems today.” His research interests involve human exposure to airborne particles, aerosol measurement, and air pollution-related disease. He received a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003 and then went on to Postdoc at the US EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC.


author chuck henry

Chuck Henry

Prior to joining the Chemistry Department at Colorado State University in 2002, Chuck Henry was an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University. Chuck’s research interests lie in the general fields of chemical separations and “lab-on-a-chip” devices. His group is specifically interested in the development of microfluidic devices for rapid diagnostics in biomedical application and point-of-measurement analyses for environmental samples. A second area of research interest is in physical protein stability. In this research area, second viral coefficients for proteins are measured using a novel chromatography technique. Trends are then correlated with protein and physical stability. Projects in this area are largely performed in collaboration with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

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