Environmental Science Research

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A major research focus at Oak Crest is dedicated to answering questions with an environmental focus using chemistry and biology approaches. These efforts are subdivided into three broad areas:

  • Air and Water Quality. Atmospheric science research at Oak Crest varies from field-based studies on the impact of vehicle exhaust emissions on air quality to laboratory investigations on fundamental atmospheric processes and spectroscopic instrument development. The water quality research primarily involves the development of novel sensor platforms for low level monitoring as well as field studies on chemical and biological processes in urban watersheds.
  • Microbiology. Microbial ecology of communities in specialized niches ranging from asphalt pools to the latex of Euphorbia plants (spurges) is being studied at Oak Crest using a combination of multi-omics approaches with imaging and isolation. Biocatalysis is another major research focus and includes the isolation of bacterial cultures and genes followed by library screening to achieve stereoselective conversions of interest to synthetic chemists. Laboratory and field studies are directed at improving our understanding of the formation and development of bacterial biofilms.
  • Prebiotic Metabolism and the Origin of Life. We are studying various aspects of prebiotic metabolism relating to the emergence of life on Earth as well as possible clues for life on icy world. Some of this research aim to simulate hydrothermal vents and study the mineral-organic chemistry of the high energy interfaces.
  • Catalysis and Energy. The catalysis program primarily is dedicated towards developing novel strategies for carbon dioxide chemical activation and fixation into high-value materials. The energy research involves new spectroscopic sensors for use in energy production, and the development of novel light absorbing systems inspired by nature for solar conversion.