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Graduate Program in Environmental Engineering

Environmental Chemistry

Our understanding of the fate and transport of pollutants and of long-term impacts of humans on the environment is limited by an incomplete understanding of environmental chemistry. Environmental chemistry seeks to apply the principles of physical chemistry, inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, electrochemistry, and analytical chemistry to the complex milieus encountered outside the laboratory.

environmental chemistryA host of environmental problems today are not confined to any one medium (air, soil, water) but are characterized by dynamic transfers among media. The interdisciplinary study of environmental chemistry aims to prepare students to understand the fundamental principles governing pollutant transport and transformation in all environmental settings. Further, a major thrust in environmental research is pollution prevention, the changing of industrial and social practices so as to prevent pollution and obviate the need for environmental remediation and end-of-pipe treatments.

Pollution prevention requires an in-depth knowledge of environmental chemistry to define what constitutes "safe" emissions, and to search for new synthesis pathways that use environmentally-friendly starting materials. The focus on chemistry is not intended to minimize the role of physical and biological processes, but rather to further our limited understanding of the chemical principles that, together with physical and biological processes, determine the environmental conditions in which we must find a sustainable way to live.

vie of rosette and Isle RoyaleFaculty and students in environmental chemistry have specializations in the areas of atmospheric chemistry, water chemistry, organic chemistry, and geochemistry. Common to all of these areas of specialization are an understanding of thermodynamic and kinetic principles, reaction mechanisms, and the complexities that define each environmental medium. The areas of specialization primarily define the particular boundary conditions under which the chemical principles are applied.

Examples of current research programs include:

  • Studies of reductive dehalogenation of common environmental pollutants
  • Studies of human impacts on tropospheric ozone and reactive nitrogen oxides and the chemistry of the rural and remote atmosphere
  • Examination of the role of organic sulfur species in binding with trace metals; this binding can either immobilize the trace metals, or, under special circumstances, facilitate their transport
  • Examination of the chemical methods used by bacteria to detoxify trace metals (Hg) and xenobiotic organic compounds
  • Development of predictive models for the rates of transformation and adsorption of xenobiotic chemicals

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College of Engineering
Michigan Technological University
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
870 Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan, 49931 - 1295, USA
Department Phone: 1-906-487-2520
Department Fax: 1-906-487-2943
Department E-mail: cee@mtu.edu

Last Modified:
November 4, 2009

Copyright © 2009
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

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