Science Lecture Series

The Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University was established in 1987 under the leadership of Dr. Philip Barnhart, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Dr. Jerry Jenkins, Chair of the Department of Chemistry. The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Seminar Fund sponsors the annual scientific seminars. Through these seminars, national leaders in science and technology share their insights about the future of scientific endeavor.

2024 Science Lecture: “Free Drugs,” “Superbugs,” and “Forever Chemicals” in the Environment: Occurrence and Implications.

Speaker: Dr. Diana Aga
Public Lecture: Wednesday, February 21, 6:00 p.m.
Location: Riley Auditorium, Battelle Fine Arts Center

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The chemical pollution of surface waters in the U.S. and around the world has become a major concern because of their adverse human health and ecological effects. Residues of pharmaceuticals and other synthetic organic compounds have been detected in the environment at trace concentrations, but with long-term deleterious effects on humans and wildlife. In this presentation, results from a global reconnaissance of antimicrobials and other pollutants — such as perfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS), aka “Forever Chemicals” — in surface waters and drinking water will be presented. Antimicrobials are of particular concern since the presence of these compounds in the environment plays a role in the emergence of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) and result in mutations that create “Superbugs” that are hard to treat. Further, this presentation will provide information on the environmental fate and health effects of PFAS that are present in many of our consumer products. Scientists and engineers are racing to develop innovative ways to destroy PFAS using different approaches involving a combination of biological, chemical, and physical techniques. Recent advances in removing PFAS from wastewater and biosolids, two main sources of PFAS in the environment, will be discussed. Development of PFAS mitigation strategies in the environment can be made possible through teamwork and collaborations between researchers from various disciplines.

Dr. Paul KwiatDr. Diana Aga

About Dr. Diana Aga

Dr. Diana Aga is the Henry Woodburn Professor of Chemistry and a State University of New York (SUNY) Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo (UB). She also serves as the Director of RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute at UB. Her research involves studying the fate, transport, effects, and treatment of Chemicals of Emerging Concerns and Persistent Organic Pollutants in the environment. She is an expert in developing trace analytical methods for organic contaminants in complex environmental matrices based on chromatography and mass spectrometry. She is interested in advancing non-target analysis of unknown contaminants in the environment, especially in identifying degradation products and novel forms of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “Forever Chemicals”. Her research includes evaluating the efficiencies of various biological, physical, and chemical treatment processes in removing PFAS, pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials, and antibiotic resistance genes from wastewater treatment plants, and in agroecosystems. She also investigates bioaccumulation and toxicity of environmental contaminants in humans, fish, and wildlife.

About the George W. & Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein

Established in 1987, the George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University sponsors annual scientific seminars that bring national leaders in science and technology to campus to share their insights about the future of scientific endeavor. Past speakers have included Dr. Robert Grubbs, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Dr. Tina Henkin, 2006 winner of the National Academies of Science Pfizer Prize; Dr. Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and renowned experimental psychologist; Dr. Andrea Ghez, an international expert in observational astrophysics; Dr. Sean B. Carroll, a leading voice of evolutionary science in the U.S.; animal behaviorist Dr. Steve Nowicki; and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. William D. Phillips.