Research Labs

Below are descriptions of current open positions in ROUTES labs. To apply and to view the full job descriptions, search for ROUTES on NU Works.

Understanding How Environmental Mutagens Affect DNA Replication

Mentor: Dr. Mary Jo Ondrechen

Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University
Research Interests: Theoretical chemical biology/physics focusing on: understanding the fundamental basis for enzyme catalysis, functional genomics – prediction of the functional roles of gene products (proteins), modeling of enzyme-substrate interactions, drug discovery, and bioinformatics.

Project Description:

Certain environmental contaminants can cause modifications to DNA that result in mutations. The student working on this project will study on the molecular level the effects of DNA adducts caused by environmental contaminants upon the fidelity of DNA replication. Specifically, whether DNA polymerases are prone to copying errors, hence mutagenesis, at the site of DNA damage.

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This project involves modeling and computation. The student will develop models of undamaged DNA, and DNA with adducts, bound to the active site of the DNA polymerase, together with the four possible incoming nucleotides. The student will participate in ongoing research and will learn molecular modeling, molecular mechanics, and molecular docking techniques and will gain understanding of DNA replication and of environmental mutagenesis. Through collaborations, the student’s predictions will be tested in chemical biology experiments.

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Chemical and Electrochemical Treatment of Industrial Wastewater

Mentor: Dr. Phil Larese-Casanova

Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University
Research Interests: Environmental chemistry and mineralogy; transformation and remediation of water pollutants; nanomaterial sorbents for water treatment

Project Description:
This project addresses the problems of dissolved organic and metallic pollutants present within an industrial wastewater source by testing the ability of electrochemical systems to degrade or remove these pollutants from the water. The electrochemical reactors will be stirred batch reactors or flow-through column reactors.

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The student will examine how different water chemistries of the wastewater will influence the removal of these pollutants and help design ways to improve reactor performance when performance is poorly affected. The chemical reactors will contain solid reactants including carbon or iron that adsorb pollutants. The student will gain knowledge on how to monitor reactor performance, how to measure dissolved pollutants and other water quality parameters, and how to adhere to quality controls. The student is expected to be comfortable within a chemical laboratory, to prepare solutions and reagents, to test new methods for quantifying dissolved pollutants, and to analyze samples taken from reactors. The student will also learn analytical chemical instrumentation including liquid chromatography and spectrophotometry.

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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): Chemical regulation and policy, community activism, economic and social costs, and demographic correlates of contamination

Mentor: Dr. Phil Brown

Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences, Northeastern University; Director, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Research Interests: Chemical policy, PFAS, disputes over environmental causation of illness, community response to toxic waste-induced disease, biomonitoring and household exposure to toxics, environmental health research ethics, and health social movements.

Project Description:
The PFAS Project Lab (pfasproject.com) is a lab group within the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI). The Lab includes 5 faculty members, 1 postdoc, 4 graduate students, and 4 undergraduates. Visit the PFAS Project website to learn more about current projects.

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Tasks that students have done include: Interview scientists, affected residents, government regulatory officials, manufacturers, retailers, and advocates on history of PFAS use, voluntary phase-outs, state and federal regulation, clean-up, and chemical substitution. Compile historical material and legal transcripts involving areas of PFAS contamination. Work on Contamination Site Database of contamination episodes, and help analyze data. Transcribe interviews, enter transcripts and other data into qualitative methods software, and conduct analysis. Assist in developing and maintaining website for international compilation of materials on PFAS. Maintain our widely-visited website. Coordinate monthly newsletter that incorporates material from a number of partner organizations. Develop information materials for health professionals to discuss PFAS contamination with patients and the public. We are particularly looking for involvement on analyzing state regulatory and other actions. Co-ops have been co-authors on published articles. 

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Exploring Drinking Water Disparities in the United States

Mentor: Dr. Kelsey Pieper

Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University
Research Interests: Applied environmental chemistry; corrosion; drinking water quality, treatment, and infrastructure; post-disaster drinking water recovery; public health engineering.

Project Description:
There are widespread well water contamination concerns in the United States – 3 of 5 private wells do not meet US EPA drinking water standards required for municipal systems. Even within the private well population, there are further disparities, but data and knowledge about marginalized communities is often limited.

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The student will work with marginalized communities to conduct drinking water sampling campaigns and explore drinking water inequalities in the U.S. The project will generate knowledge and data on drinking water concerns in communities who lack access to modern drinking water infrastructure by working with communities who have constructed their own private wells. The student will engage in community-based research and work in the field and laboratory.

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