December 01, 2020
By Alice Zhao
Matthew Glasscott, a doctoral student in the Dick Research Group, received a Graduate Education Advancement Board (GEAB) Impact Award from The Graduate School at UNC for his research on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Impact Awards recognize graduate student research of a more applied and immediate nature, especially when the graduate student researcher has worked with leaders, citizens or data from North Carolina and when the research results are relevant and directly applicable to North Carolina with the potential to make a difference very soon.
“I felt honored and excited at the prospect of getting the word out about this work. PFAS contamination is a serious issue that affects ordinary people, and I think our research fits well into the other research efforts at Duke and NCSU to ensure the safety of North Carolina’s water resources,” said Glasscott on being a recipient of the Impact Award.
From Matthew Glasscott’s Impact Statement
PFAS, a class of molecules with over 4730 variants, are also known as “forever chemicals” due to their environmental persistence and tendency to bioaccumulate. Though practical for the production of chemically-resistant materials such as Teflon, serious concerns exist regarding the fate of waterborne PFAS unintentionally discharged from manufacturing facilities. Of specific interest to North Carolinians, a major chemical plant on the Cape Fear River was recently implicated in the discharge of GenX, a next-generation PFAS.
PFAS are pervasive substances with a potentially substantial, adverse impact on the human body when consumed. They are found in common household products such as non-stick cookware, food packaging and cleaning products. Companies that use PFAS to produce products contribute greatly to anthropogenic pollution. This type of pollution was found in the expansive Cape Fear River basin, a source of drinking water for residents in North Carolina. Glasscott’s research focuses on the development of a novel, deployable technology to rapidly detect and remove PFAS from the water source, which has the potential to leave an effective, lasting impact on the lives of millions of North Carolinians.
Glasscott’s intent to pursue a career as a chemist stemmed from his interest in problem-solving. “I love to tinker, and chemistry afforded me the opportunity to tinker at the molecular scale to produce fantastic reactions and results. I enjoy the hands-on experience chemists obtain as they strive to solve complex problems,” said Glasscott.
Carolina Chemistry’s rich scientific tradition and rigorous research by faculty and students were reasons that Glasscott opted to pursue a Ph.D. at UNC. Upon the completion of his Ph.D., Glasscott plans to continue working to elucidate fundamental knowledge that will inform the next-generation environmental sensors and nanomaterials.