College of Science and Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering
How can we reduce the harm caused by environmental contaminants? Paige Novak, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, is seeking answers to that question for two major categories of pollutants—chlorinated organic compounds and estrogens.
In one area of research, Novak is exploring how microbes called halorespirers detoxify chlorine-containing organic compounds. By learning how these organisms function in nature, she hopes to uncover clues to ways to make them better allies in degrading manmade pollutants such as PCBs and persistent pesticides.
Recently, Novak has also begun searching for sources of estrogenic contaminants in the environment, and discover better ways to treat them. Her goal is to identify ways to temper the threat these endocrine-system-disrupting contaminants pose to ecosystems.
Recognizing the importance of policy as well as scientific research in reducing harm from pollutants, Novak is using her IonE resident fellowship as an opportunity to bring together scientists, policy experts, social scientists, behavioral scientists and policymakers around the issue of estrogenic contaminants. Building on a recent workshop focused on bringing scientists together, she plans to develop and carry out a second workshop where leaders from a variety of social science disciplines will identify the state of knowledge, knowledge gaps, and research needs related to understanding and reducing the risks of environmental estrogens. Her hope is that the workshop will lead to the development of science-based policy to deal with this important issue.See Novak's faculty page for more info.