IEH Undergraduate Internship Description—Summer 2016
Project Title: Distribution and Fate of Emerging Contaminants in Oregon Rivers
Senior mentor(s): Paul G. Tratnyek (Professor), Tawnya Peterson (Assistant Professor),
and Joseph Needoba (Assistant Professor)
Frontline mentor(s): Graduate Student TBD
Context for Project:
A variety of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) have been identified in river waters in Oregon. Of
particular interest are metformin, which is used in treatment of diabetes. Profs. Peterson and Needoba are
funded by Oregon Sea Grant to perform the first experimental study on the fate of metformin in Oregon
rivers, and the intern will assist with that study during its first year. The CEC degradation aspects of this
study will be performed in collaboration with Prof. Tratnyek, whose work involves complementary
aspects of contaminant fate.
The student will carry out a project that is synergistic with ongoing work that aims to (i) quantify fluxes
of these pharmaceuticals during spring, summer, autumn, and winter at several sites in the lower river that
span waters upstream and downstream of the city of Portland; (ii) determine photo-degradation rates of
chemicals of emerging concern using a solar simulator that mimics natural solar radiation; (iii) quantify
rates of breakdown of the parent products with and without microbes; (iv) determine levels of chemicals
of emerging concern at various stages of sewage treatment; and (v) characterize the effects of exposure to
chemicals of emerging concern on the growth and physiology of cultured phytoplankton isolates.
Proposed Outcomes/Broader Impact:
This work will contribute to a better knowledge of the distribution and fate of chemicals of emerging
concern and of their potential significance for the health of aquatic biota. The undergraduate student(s)
will work with a graduate student from OHSU and participate in networking activities with local state and
federal agency personnel working in the environmental sciences.
Tentative Timeline (Standard Term = 10 weeks):
Week Activities Deliverables
1 Basic training on safety, lab protocols, analytical methods.
2 Sampling and preliminary analysis or river water samples.
3 Laboratory experiments on CECs degradation in water samples.
4 Laboratory experiments on CECs degradation in water samples.
5 Synthesize and present interim results. Presentation
6-9 Laboratory experiments on CECs degradation in water samples.
10 Synthesize and present final results. Report
Intern academic experience and skill-set should include:
Applicants should be majoring in a natural science, with at least 1 year of college level chemistry and
biology. Laboratory and/or field research experience is strongly preferred.