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Research Project Description

Evaluating Organic Chemical Transformation Pathways in Biological and Environmental Systems
Research Participation Program
Office of Research and Development
National Exposure Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Athens, GA


Project Description:

A postdoctoral research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD), National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL). This appointment will be served in the Ecosystems Research Division (ERD) in Athens, Georgia.

ERD promotes sustainable ecosystem health and informs decisions that support environmental protection by applying the best biological, chemical and geophysical science as the foundation for ecosystem exposure research. ERD conducts field and laboratory process investigations, and links these to modeling studies to address concerns related to the fate and transport of chemical contaminants and the environmental impacts of physical stressors.

This project will seek to characterize the similarities and differences in transformation pathways in biological and environmental systems for a selected group of priority organic chemicals, with the goal of determining the degree to which process science underlying chemical transformations in environmental systems can inform knowledge gaps in the process science underlying transformations in environmental biological systems, and vice versa. With guidance from the mentor, the participant may be involved in the following training activities:

  • Mining published literature and regulatory documents to extract information on organic chemical transformation pathways that are common to biological and environmental systems
  • Synthesizing chemical transformation pathway information from diverse sources to make inferences about the processes controlling chemical transformations
  • Incorporating process science understanding into existing cheminformatics-based software tools for predicting organic chemical transformation pathways
  • Developing algorithms to predict rates of transformation from molecular properties, structural attributes, and descriptors of ambient conditions

 Through involvement in this research project, the participant will enhance his/her skills in data interpretation and organization and in communication of scientific findings in a clear and concise manner. S/he will be encouraged to communicate research progress in peer-reviewed publications and in presentations at informal research team meetings, as well as national meetings of professional societies.

The participant will benefit from interactions with an interdisciplinary research team with expertise in chemistry, microbiology, environmental modeling and software engineering. This team is presently working on the development and application of a suite of software tools that will provide the user with predicted reaction pathways, physicochemical properties, and transformation rates for EPA priority organic chemicals. This experience will provide the participant with insight into the translation of laboratory study results into software tools to inform chemical screening and prioritization.

This project supports EPA’s “Chemical Safety for Sustainability” (CSS) research program by advancing knowledge infrastructure to characterize potential impacts to human health and the environment from new and existing manufactured chemicals and their transformation products. Results from this study will inform the development of computational tools to screen for transformation potential and negative impacts that may associated with the use and disposal of manufactured chemicals.


Applicants must have received a doctoral degree in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, environmental science, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, or a closely related discipline within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but can also hold an appropriate visa status, however, an H1B visa is not appropriate).

The appointment is full time for one year and may be renewed upon recommendation of EPA and contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. Funding may be made available to reimburse a research participant's travel expenses to support field studies and to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover travel costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition and fees, or a participant's health insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

The contact person for this project is Caroline Stevens (

How to Apply:

An application can be found at Please reference Project # EPA-ORD/NERL-ERD-2014-02 when calling or writing for information.