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21-13. High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) for non-target analysis and identification of contaminants of emerging concern in environmental systems


Closing Date: November 1, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.

Please communicate with individual Research Advisor(s) on the right to discuss project ideas and answer specific questions about the Research Opportunity.

How to Apply


Non-target analysis of environmental samples, drinking water and wastewater using high resolution mass spectrometry is a powerful tool for discerning chemical degradation pathways and identifying organic chemicals of emerging concern. WMA’s National Water Quality Laboratory owns a Waters G2S-Synapt Qualitative Time of Flight High Resolution Mass Spectrometer (QToF HRMS) system with both GC and LC interfaces that is currently underutilized. The QToF system creates highly complex and rich data sets, meaning that a larger proportion of effort is spent in data processing and interpretation than direct instrument time. We would like to invite a Mendenhall fellow to use the QToF HRMS for investigations of organic contaminants of emerging concern. This could be as a collaboration with an ongoing project on non-target analysis of Per- and Polyfluoro Alkyl Substances (PFAS) and targeted PFAS method development, or as an investigation of other contaminants of emerging concerns, e.g., pharmaceutical degradants.

A major goal of WMA’s project on non-target Analysis of PFAS in water, soil and sediment is the identification of legacy PFAS components, new/novel PFAS structures, PFAS precursors and PFAS degradants to identify measurement gaps between targeted PFAS analysis and the tens of thousands of unique PFAS compounds produced and potentially released to the environment.  This information can then be used to prioritize compounds for inclusion in subsequent iterations of targeted methods.

The Mendenhall scholar is also welcome propose a different chemical focus area. One possibility is the use of HRMS for investigation of pharmaceutical degradants. There is ample evidence that pharmaceuticals, particularly pharmaceutical metabolites are released from wastewater systems and impact aquatic ecosystems and downstream drinking water supplies. These compounds are likely to be present in many of the same samples that are analyzed for PFAS compounds.  By modifying QToF-HRMS data search algorithms developed for PFAS so they do not require the presence of multiple F atoms for a structural match, data files generated for the identification of unknown PFAS compounds may also be queried for the presence of pharmaceuticals as well as their degradants and metabolites of concern.  This would make a nice collaboration and workflow split for the current non-target subject matter expert and Mendenhall fellow.

Proposed Duty Station(s): Lakewood, Colorado

Areas of PhD: Chemistry, environmental sciences, chemical engineering or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity, may be considered)

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for one of the following: Research Chemist, Research Chemical Engineer, or Research Physical Scientist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact:  Billie Bowker, 703-648-7494,

Apply Here