A research group ready to get their hands both dirty and wet
A problem in environmental analysis is that only a few hundred substances are routinely monitored in air, water, soil or human biofluids. One of the Mistra SafeChem research groups, led by Professor Jonathan Martin at Stockholm University, aims to collect comprehensive molecular information from environmental and human samples to mitigate emerging chemical threats.
Who are the members of your research group?
– My research group members have come to Stockholm University with a blend of backgrounds ranging from environmental chemistry, metabolomics, or pure analytical chemistry. They’re a fun and dynamic bunch with advanced expertise in mass spectrometry, but who are not afraid to get their hands dirty in the field – for example, urban water sampling – or to learn new coding languages to tackle the immense data science challenges we confront. We work at SciLifeLab and contribute to the operations of the National Facility for Exposomics External link, opens in new window., says Jonathan Martin.
In what field are you focusing?
– We are trying to solve a long-recognized problem in environmental analysis, that despite hundreds of thousands of chemicals in global commerce, only a few hundred substances are routinely monitored in air, water, soil or human biofluids. As a result, there are many unfortunate examples of hazardous chemicals being released into the environment for decades prior to discovery, which will continue to threaten environmental health for many generations. Our research projects are in the areas of ‘nontarget analysis’ and ‘chemical exposomics’, which are related fields that aim to collect comprehensive molecular information from environmental and human samples using untargeted high-resolution mass spectrometry. Our ambition is to work closely with industry and public authorities to identify and mitigate emerging chemical threats early in the chemical-use life cycle.
From which research areas have your group published scientific articles so far?
– The objective of our Mistra Safechem research is to demonstrate a national nontarget analysis platform for sustainable water monitoring, and our recent publications describe the mass spectral and open science data processing workflows that are now being applied (see publications below).
What have you learned that can be useful for others in the programme?
– In our experience, the most powerful nontarget workflows for chemical discovery are those that make the best use of open science software and resources. With community science and data fairness in mind, these free tools not only elevate our Mistra Safechem research but also allow any company or public agency to freely utilize our data in the future. The long-term impacts of Mistra Safechem can be multiplied if we each consider utilizing and contributing to open science resources and initiatives in our respective fields.
Could you mention any result that you are particularly proud of?
– We recently reported a low-cost synthetic procedure to make passive air samplers made of silicone foam. These are composed of a super-clean polymer that is optimal for nontarget chemical analysis and biotesting. These can be deployed indoors or outdoors to detect organic contaminants in air and dust, and in Mistra Safechem we have offered it to our partners for identifying unexpected chemical emissions from new materials and products, Jonathan Martin declares.