University of Pittsburgh
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Live broadcast available:
Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) belong to a diverse class of chemicals with a wide variety of applications ranging from consumer products to industrial processing aids to firefighting foams. They are also ultimately highly persistent in the environment, leading to their now global presence as ubiquitous environmental contaminants. Many PFAS have unfortunately now also been found to be highly bioavailable and toxic. Yet reliable property and activity data are still lacking for many of the potentially thousands of chemicals in the class, which has already led to a number of regrettable substitutions, wherein one PFAS known to be toxic, such as PFOA or PFOS, has been replaced with a different, presumably safer, PFAS that has since been revealed to be equally problematic, such as GenX. In this talk, I will discuss the complementary modeling and experimental approaches my group has used to develop predictive models of PFAS behavior in biological systems, ranging from molecular dynamics simulations of PFAS-protein interactions to whole-organism mechanistic toxicokinetic models to in vivo studies of PFAS impacts in fish and rodent models. By integrating diverse streams of evidence with a focus on structure-activity relationship, we are seeking to understand how structural differences change—or do not—the ultimate impact of PFAS, to inform development of more sustainable chemicals and products.
Dr. Carla Ng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, with secondary appointments in Environmental and Occupational Health and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. She received her PhD in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Northwestern University and her MS and BS in Chemical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo. 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. Active research areas include the development of mechanistic models for the bioaccumulation of PFAS in organisms, 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.