Analytical Chemistry Core

What do we do?

The Analytical Chemistry Core (ACC) is integral in providing high-quality chemical analyses to all projects within Duke’s Superfund Research Center. The Core has four specific aims:

  1. Provide routine quantitative analysis of organic and inorganic contaminants

Organic Analytes: the ACC performs extraction and trace analyses of organic compounds including: organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides, PAHs, flame retardants (PBDEs and replacements), and thyroid hormones. We can conduct these analyses on a wide range of media, including tissue, sediment, soils, and aqueous suspensions.

Inorganic Analytes: the ACC’s Dr. Hsu-Kim also analyzes selected trace elements including: alkali and alkali earths, transition metals, selenium, arsenic, lanthanides, mercury/methylmercury.

     2.  Perform non-targeted chemical analyses

In order to characterize and quantify products formed by the breakdown of Superfund chemicals and contaminant mixtures, the ACC performs non-targeted analyses using high resolution, accurate mass (HRAM) mass . This work is especially important for Project 5, which studies the effectiveness of fungal and bacterial bioremediation methods for Superfund chemicals.

Non-targeted analysis can also be used after flooding or other natural disasters to assess environmental health risks from multiple known and unknown sources of contamination. In the wake of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Joyce collected floodwater samples for non-targeted analysis.

     3.  Serve as training and consulting resource for DUSRC trainees and researchers

The ACC supports the analytical chemistry needs of PIs and trainees working on SRC-related projects. This includes assisting with experimental design as well as training on equipment used for data collection and chemical analysis. Formal training is also provided through a graduate level class on Environmental Analytical Chemistry, taught by Dr. Ferguson.

     4.  Develop new analytical methods for additional “chemicals of interest”

ACC staff develops novel methods to measure emerging chemicals of concern that are of interest to Duke Superfund researchers on an as-needed basis.


Some examples of analytical services provided by the ACC include:

  • Quantitation of thyroid hormones in biological tissues
  • Analysis and characterization of current and emerging halogenated flame retardants (e.g. PBDEs and replacements) in environmental and biological samples
  • Quantitation of the pesticide chlorpyrifos and its degradation products in natural and engineered systems
  • Broad-range analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediment and water
  • Identification and characterization of PAH transformation products in fish tissues
  • Analysis of major and trace elements in soil, water and biological tissues
  • Analysis of mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), selenium (Se), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) in whole blood and other biological tissues
  • Bioaccessible forms of trace metal elements in soils and particles

Analytical resources available to the ACC for these analyses include: HPLC-MS/MS, high resolution HPLC-Orbitrap MS/MS, high resolution GC-Orbitrap MS/MS, GC-MS, GC-ECD, HPLC-UV-FLD, and trace element analysis via ICP-MS and atomic fluorescence spectroscopy systems.

Polyurethane Foam Study

As part of our ongoing efforts to understand human exposure to flame retardant chemicals, we offer free testing of polyurethane foam from household furniture. Our testing will determine whether or not 9 common flame retardant chemicals are present in furniture foam. This free testing is open to the public and each household can send up to 5 samples from furniture or other household products with polyurethane foam. For more information about why we’re doing this, what we’re doing, and how you can participate, visit the project’s website.

Who are we?

Dr. Lee Ferguson – Co-PI
Dr. Heather Stapleton – Co-PI
Dr. Heileen Hsu-Kim – Co-PI
Dr. Abigail Joyce – Analytical Chemistry Core Manager
Dr. Nelson Rivera – Targeted Inorganics Analysis Support Staff
Emina Hodzic, B.S. — Research Technician II

Get in touch

For more information about the analytical chemistry core, or to request services, please contact Dr. Abigail Joyce: