Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Fate of Contaminants in the Environment
The environment is an increasingly important focus of research and teaching at City College, and Urs Jans is part of that thrust.
Dr. Jans is an environmental chemist who holds a doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He was a research fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology and did postdoctoral work in the Johns Hopkins Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. In City’s Chemistry Department, where he is chair of the Organic Division, he has been instrumental in designing new lab and lecture courses which create an environmental chemistry concentration within the chemistry major. He sits on the curriculum committee of City’s new multi-disciplinary degree in Environmental and Earth System Science and is on the faculty of the NOAA Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center, which is housed in City’s Grove School of Engineering.
Urs Jans’s specific research interest is in aquatic environmental organic chemistry. Under his CAREER award he is investigating the affects of two major classes of contaminants on sensitive coastal ecosystems. Organophosphate and carbamate insecticides have been used in the United States for decades. Recently, it has been discovered that some of these pesticides are neurodevelopmentally toxic at low doses, indicating that the brain development of children can be harmed by a continuous exposure to very low concentrations of these compounds. This has caused the Environmental Protection Agency to review their use. Though they are no longer applied to most fruits and vegetables, they are still used on crops such as corn, wheat and cotton, and they are found in lawn care products and weed killers. They leach into the groundwater of agricultural areas and are transported into coastal wetlands, with potentially serious implications for the nervous systems of marine life.
“It is important to completely understand how these agrochemicals break down, and whether the resulting compounds are more or less toxic than the original ones,” says Dr. Jans. He is studying what happens to them in the oxygen-free sediments of estuaries and salt marshes, where reactions with reduced sulfur species could have a significant impact on their rates of removal.
The research Dr. Jans is doing will be infused into the courses he is teaching, where he will introduce students to analytical measurements of contaminants and expose them to quantitative computer models to predict the behavior of contaminants in the environment.