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UNCW Professor Dr. Ralph Mead Receives DEQ Applied Research Fellowship to Advance PFAS Science

Friday, June 17, 2022

Dr. Ralph Mead, professor of chemistry and biochemistry for UNCW and its Center for Marine Science, is among four researchers awarded the inaugural North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Applied Research Fellowship to advance the science of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the state.  

The DEQ, in partnership with the North Carolina Collaboratory, established this unique fellowship program to strengthen the partnership between state regulators and academic experts on a priority issue that impacts many North Carolinians. 

"I am honored to receive the Collaboratory Fellowship and work with fellow scientists and regulators from NC Department of Environmental Quality,” said Dr. Mead. "I look forward to strengthening and growing these ties to further advance our knowledge of the challenges per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances pose to the environment and citizens of North Carolina." 

A key focus of the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS is the development of the science needed to address PFAS statewide. The fellowship program provides an opportunity for researchers and DEQ staff to identify and address information gaps and research needs. 

“This fellowship is an opportunity for DEQ and the leading scientific experts on PFAS to work together to improve our understanding of these forever chemicals and generate the scientific data we need to protect our communities and protect our drinking water,” said Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. 

The Fall 2022 Fellows will be Dr. Jamie DeWitt from East Carolina University and Dr. Lee Ferguson from Duke University, who will provide their expertise to DEQ staff to assist with PFAS-related laboratory methods, data analysis and field sampling. 

Dr. Detlef Knappe from North Carolina State University will be the Spring 2023 Fellow and Dr. Mead will be the Summer 2023 Fellow. 

“The Collaboratory and DEQ have had a long and effective partnership to better understand PFAS in our state – sharing data and methodologies, utilizing academic labs to run water monitoring samples when the EPA was impacted by the last governmental shutdown a few years back, and facilitating both informal and formal roundtables between our university experts and DEQ leadership and staff,” said Dr. Jeffrey Warren, the Collaboratory’s executive director. “This fellowship program is unique and a win-win; the faculty members will be able to better understand how scientific data are used in the policy and regulatory space, while DEQ regulators can better understand how the academic investigations are designed and executed as well as how the extensive datasets are generated and analyzed.” 

The fellowship program will be funded by the Collaboratory, which was established by the NC General Assembly in 2016 and has been active in PFAS research for many years. In 2018, the Collaboratory formed the NC PFAS Testing Network – a group of PFAS experts who specialize in studying PFAS levels in drinking water and air samples as well as the environmental, biological and public health impacts of the chemicals. More information is available online: https://collaboratory.unc.edu

More information about DEQ’s continued work on emerging compounds including the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS is available online: https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/emerging-compounds

-- Krissy Vick 

The fellows (L to R): Dr. Detlef Knappe, North Carolina State University; Dr. Ralph Mead, University of North Carolina Wilmington; Dr. Jamie DeWitt, East Carolina University; and Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University

The NC Department of Environmental Quality, in partnership with the North Carolina Collaboratory, announce the DEQ Applied Research Fellowship during a press conference at Cape Fear Community College. The fellows (L to R): Dr. Detlef Knappe, North Carolina State University; Dr. Ralph Mead, University of North Carolina Wilmington; Dr. Jamie DeWitt, East Carolina University; and Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University, will provide an opportunity to identify and address information gaps and research needed to address PFAS issues in air and water quality throughout North Carolina. PHOTO BY: JEFF JANOWSKI/UNCW