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In the News

  • Photo of Frank Wania
    Professor Frank Wania. Photo by Ken Jones.

    Frank Wania elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

    "Frank Wania has dedicated his scientific career to understanding how organic chemicals get into and work their way around the environment. For his contributions, he now joins an elite company of researchers as a newly elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. “It’s nice to see that people appreciate the contributions I’ve made, and to have recognition from my peers who took the effort to nominate me,” Professor Wania says." [Read more]
  • Photo of Barbara Sherwood Lollar
    Barbara Sherwood Lollar

    Barbara Sherwood Lollar cross-appointed to the Department of Chemistry

    "We are pleased to welcome Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who has been cross-appointed to the Department of Chemistry. A Professor in Earth Sciences, Barbara is a graduate of Harvard (B.A.) and the University of Waterloo (Ph.D.) and carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge. She is a Canada Research Chair in Isotopes of the Earth and Environment, and Past-President of the Geochemical Society." [About Barb]
  • Credit: Ken Jones

    New U of T research looks at the impact of environmental toxins at the molecular level

    "New research to develop cutting-edge technology that can shed light on the impact of contaminants at the molecular level just received a funding boost. The research, led by Andre Simpson, professor of physical and environmental sciences at U of T Scarborough, received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Strategic Partnership Grant program. ..." [Read more]
  • Credit: David McLagan

    Some like it hot: U of T PhD student’s research takes him to active volcano in New Zealand

    "The U of T Scarborough PhD candidate is working on developing passive air samplers that can monitor mercury concentrations in remote locations. Working under the supervision of U of T Scarborough Chemistry Professor Frank Wania and Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences Carl Mitchell, David McLagan is looking at monitoring mercury in the air since it can last in the atmosphere for around a year, can be transported great distances and is linked to a host of brain and nervous system disorders. ..." [Read more]
  • UofT researchers participate in field work aimed at understanding Utah's winter air pollution problem

    Murphy group members participated in the Utah Winter Fine Particle Study with NOAA and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. See postdoctoral fellow Alex Moravek working in the video from Fox 13.

    "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality offered a closer look Wednesday at the specialized aircraft researchers are using to collect data on Utah's air pollution.

    The NOAA's "Twin Otter" is being used to collect data about the chemical conditions responsible for the formation of particulate pollution, known as PM2.5..." [Read more from Fox] or [read more from NOAA]

  • Credit: Steve Frost

    Professor Scott Mabury reappointed as Vice-President, University Operations and Vice Provost, Academic Operations

    "Professor Scott Mabury has been reappointed by Governing Council to the role of Vice-President, University Operations and Vice Provost, Academic Operations for another five-year term. His many achievements during his first term include significant savings and locating efficiencies in university operations, and Mabury credits, in part, chemistry. "Usually in chemistry, we want to improve the efficiency of a reaction with higher yields," says Mabury, "so optimizing how things work is a theme that exports out of chemistry into this job. I find it an engaging exercise to optimize how things work with a clear mind to what the overall goal is." ..." [Read more]
  • Members of the Murphy Research Group conduct field study in remote woods

    Members of the Murphy research group took part in atmospheric research in northern Michigan this summer as part of the Program for Research on Oxidants: Photochemistry, Emissions and Transport (PROPHET). This collaboration includes scientists from twenty universities, from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France along with the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. "“It’s especially important for us to study places like this so we understand what chemistry in forests looks like without significant human influence,” said Sarah Kavassalis, a PhD student from the University of Toronto. The group from Toronto studied exchanges of nitrous oxides (NOx), a significant pollutant that’s both manmade and tree-made." [Read more]
  • Greg Wentworth

    Seabird guano: cooling the Arctic summer

    "In new research published in Nature Communications, Murphy and Abbatt group researchers and their collaborators show that ammonia from the guano of seabirds helps to form clouds and cool the summertime Arctic. "It certainly brings home the fact that everything is connected," says study coauthor Greg Wentworth, who completed his PhD with Prof. Murphy in fall 2016. Their surprising discovery has been featured in UofT News, Science News, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine." [Read more]
  • Credit: Ken Jones

    A carbon sink that can’t be filled

    "Forests can store as much as 45 percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon, making them a critical part of the process of regulating climate change. As global temperatures rise, though, the organic matter in forests appears to break down more quickly, accelerating the release of carbon into the atmosphere. This surprising conclusion comes out of a long-term study that was intended to find means to mitigate global warming, not exacerbate it. ..." [Read more]
  • Participants at NETCARE's 3rd workshop

    Ocean life triggers ice formation in clouds

    "Researchers have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds. Results published this week (Wednesday 9 September) in the journal Nature show that the organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave and influence global climate, which is important for improved projections of future climate change. ... [Read more]
  • Interview with James Donaldson

    Professor James Donaldson, who has been studying urban grime for more than a decade, recently presented new research detailing how urban grime releases smog-forming nitrogen oxide compounds when exposed to sunlight. This paper, co-authored with PhD student Alyson Baergen, has overturned the previously held notion that such compounds remain “trapped” in the grime. The research involved field studies in Toronto and Leipzig, Germany, and helps to explain why nitrous oxide (HONO) compounds have been recently reported in urban environments at higher levels than can be explained by current models. It has also shown, notes Donaldson, “that we do not understand urban air pollution as well as we had thought.” His research team is continuing to explore the chemistry occurring with sunlight and grime and are planning a similar study in Shanghai with colleagues at Fudan University, and are also undertaking a long-term study in Toronto. The story has captured the attention of international media and an interview with Donaldson is available at U of T News.
  • Credit: Alyson Baergen

    Urban grime releases air pollutant when exposed to sunlight

    "In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have determined that natural sunlight triggers the release of smog-forming nitrogen oxide compounds from the grime that typically coats buildings, statues and other outdoor surfaces in urban areas. The finding confirms previous laboratory work using simulated sunlight and upends the long-held notion that nitrates in urban grime are “locked” in place. The scientists will present their findings based on field studies conducted in Leipzig, Germany, and Toronto, Canada, at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting features more than 9,000 reports and is being held here through Thursday. ..." [Read more]
  • The Shrinking Case For Fluorochemicals

    Over the last decade, the production and use of environmentally persistent long-alkyl-chain fluorocarbons such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been significantly reduced with the final aim of elimination and some researchers and environmental groups are now calling for the elimination of short-chain replacements as well. Professor Scott Mabury approaches the problem differently – his research group is working to develop a fluorinated surfactant that will completely defluorinate to form carbon dioxide and fluoride ions under normal environmental conditions. While also pleased to see the fluorochemicals industry clean up their chemistry, Mabury believes that instead of focusing on banning chemicals, researchers should be encouraged to develop new, non-persistent alternatives that maintain the same desirable properties as the persistent fluorochemicals. As he recently noted to Chemical & Engineering News, “the challenge is not to deny the fundamental ability of chemists to be creative but to keep working at it.” Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.
  • Frank Wania and Carl Mitchell’s collaborative project is one of twelve at U of T now funded by NSERC's Strategic Project Grants Program

    NSERC recently announced that a project developed by Professor Frank Wania and Environmental Science Professor Carl Mitchell is one of twelve U of T projects awarded funding from its Strategic Grants Program. The program awarded $5.3 million to early-stage projects at the University of Toronto that might otherwise go unfunded due to their high-risk nature. Wania and Mitchell's project addresses the high-cost of the current technique for measuring atmospheric mercury, which limits analysis to scattered sites in wealthy countries. Because the prototype tool they’ve developed makes measuring atmospheric mercury simple and inexpensive, it could lead to more widespread testing and source identification of mercury contamination, most importantly in countries where the current technique is not affordable. U of T News has published an article on the NSERC program that features Wania and Mitchell's project.
  • University of Toronto chemists identify role of soil in pollution control

    "Scientists have long known that air pollution caused by cars and trucks, solvent use and even plants, is reduced when broken down by naturally occurring compounds that act like detergents of the atmosphere. What has not been well understood until now are the relative contributions of all the processes producing such compounds. A new study, led by University of Toronto atmospheric chemist Jennifer Murphy, shows a key component of the process is the soil beneath our feet. ... [Read more]
  • Myrna & Andre Simpson's Work on NMR & Environmental Chemistry

    Ten years ago, Myrna Simpson and Andre Simpson placed their first soil sample in a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. In doing so, they were among the first people in the world to study, on a molecular level, how contaminants and toxins bind in soil, giving them a window on new ways to clean up contaminated sites. In 2004, the pair worked with U of T Scarborough and Bruker BioSpin, a German scientific instruments company, to create the Environmental NMR Centre, a facility dedicated to a pioneering mix of molecular chemistry and environmental science. Their unique combination of chemistry and environmental science allows them to measure how climate change affects the fundamental molecular composition of soil and water including in sensitive areas such as Canada’s Arctic, and as far as they know, no other laboratory in the world can match the kind of research they undertake. To read the full article visit 10 Years Later.
  • Jennifer Murphy Leads Study on Smog-Producing Toxins and Air Quality in the GTA

    A study about air quality in the GTA was recently featured in an article by the Toronto Star where the research, led by Jennifer Murphy, showed that the GTA had significantly reduced some of the toxins that contributed to smog, however the city still continues to violate the Canada-wide standards for ozone air pollution: “We are able to show that high ozone in 2012 was due to the relatively high number of sunny days that allowed ozone to be produced quickly, and low winds, that allowed the pollution to accumulate locally,” said Murphy. Smog can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and is formed from pollutants such as vehicle exhaust, power plants and factories. See UofT News for more.
  • Members of the Abbatt and Murphy Research Groups Conduct Climate Research in the Arctic this Summer

    Members of the Abbatt and Murphy research groups are conducting climate research in the Arctic this summer as part of the NSERC-funded network NETCARE (Network on Climate and Aerosols: Addressing Key Uncertainties in Remote Canadian Environments). Led by U of T, with Jon Abbatt as PI, this collaboration includes scientists from ten Canadian universities, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany) and a number of other international collaborators. Measurements are being conducted from both the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Amundsen (as seen on the Canadian $50 bill), and a German research aircraft, the POLAR6. For more information visit the NETCARE blog.
  • Credit: Ken Jones

    Fish consumption advisories fail to cover all types of contaminants

    "A new modeling study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to long-lived contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The study, performed by a team of researchers including University of Toronto Scarborough PhD student Matt Binnington and Professor Frank Wania, looks at how different levels of environmental contamination, a mother's compliance with advisories, and the behavior of chemicals in the body influenced exposure in her children. ..." [Read more]
  • Research shows that reported oil sands emissions greatly underestimated

    "A new comprehensive modeling assessment of contamination in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region indicates that officially reported emissions of certain hazardous air pollutants have been greatly underestimated. The results of the assessment, which was carried out by University of Toronto Scarborough Environmental Chemistry professor Frank Wania and his PhD candidate Abha Parajulee, will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, February 3 2014. The study constitutes the most comprehensive such model that has been done for the Oil Sands Region. ..." [Read more]