Abstract: Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a global environmental and public health problem, now known to contaminate drinking water, food, wildlife and humans. Their unique physicochemical properties and extreme persistence have made them incredibly challenging to study and difficult to remove from contaminated sites. As more is discovered about their toxicological impacts, diverse chemistries, and widespread use, there is an urgent need to develop better methods to track their impacts and remove them from the environment. In this talk I will discuss my group’s strategies to investigate PFAS fate and effects through the lens of their interactions with proteins in biological systems, and how these interactions may be exploited in the design of biologically inspired remediation techniques.
Biography: Dr. Carla Ng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, with a secondary appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Northwestern University in 2008. The research in Dr. Ng’s group focuses on the development of models for the fate of chemicals in organisms and ecosystems, at the intersection of chemistry, biology and engineering. She has a particular focus on the development of mechanistic toxicokinetic models of PFAS in organisms and using protein-PFAS interactions to understand and predict their impacts across different PFAS structures and species of interest. She was recently awarded an NSF CAREER award to support her ongoing work on PFAS with particular application to molecular modeling and drinking water treatment. Other areas of research include tracking the evolution of complex chemical mixtures in the environment and exploring the role of the industrial food system on the fate of contaminants, with implications for human exposure.