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Dr. Elijah J. Petersen

Elijah graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2003 with BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering and a BA in Psychology. He then received a PhD at the University of Michigan studying the ecological uptake and elimination behaviors of carbon nanotubes using earthworms (Eisenia foetida) and sediment-dwelling oligochaetes (Lumbriculus variegatus). He then received a Fulbright scholarship to do postdoctoral research at the University of Joensuu in Finland where he studied the uptake and elimination of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes in Daphnia magna. Elijah joined NIST as a National Research Council postdoctoral research fellow from 2009-2010 and then became a staff research scientist in 2010.

Given the anticipated widespread use of nanomaterials in the near future, it is critical to develop robust standard methods for assessing their potential impacts to organisms and humans. However, it is unclear if standard methods developed for traditional chemicals can readily be used for nanomaterials, and modifications to these methods or potentially entirely new methods may be necessary. For example, many nanomaterials may cause artifacts in standard toxicological assays that could lead to false positive or false negative results. Thus, a research focus in my team is to identify potential artifacts and design control experiments and other modifications to those assays to minimize artifacts and misunderstandings. In addition, we are studying the use of NIST reference materials (RMs) as positive or negative controls for standard toxicity methods to improve assay reliability and generate reference data. One of my current focuses is on the development of standard methods with C. elegans for use with nanomaterials and the application of advanced microscopy techniques to improve the robustness of the assays. The sources of variability for an ISO method for C. elegans growth inhibition are being evaluated through cause & effect analysis and experimentation to identify the most critical sources of variability in the assay. I am also focused on the development of methods to accurately quantify nanomaterial concentrations in environmental matrices and organisms to enable bioaccumulation protocols and provide number-based nanoparticle concentrations. Developing robust assays will enable understanding the potential risks of nanomaterials through the development of a scientifically rigorous research foundation. This will help enable the safe usage of these products thus promoting human and ecological health and facilitating economic activity through the safe commercialization of products utilizing nanotechnology.

2010 Best Poster Award at the 3rd International Conference on Advanced Nano Materials, Agadir, Morocco
2010 Who's Who in the World 
2009 Excellence in Review Award by Environmental Science and Technology 
2009 NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, NIST 
2007 Fulbright Scholarship to Finland
2007 American Chemical Society Environmental Division Graduate Student Paper Award
2006 American Chemical Society Environmental Division Graduate Student Award
2003 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation
2003 All-USA College Academic First Team, USA Today
2002-2003 Goldwater Scholarship, Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation
2003 Mortar Board National Honor Society Foundation Fellowship
Phi Beta Kappa

Recent Publications

Edgington, A., Petersen, E. J., Herzing, A. A., Rao, A., Klaine, S. J. 2014. Microscopic investigation of single-wall carbon nanotube uptake by Daphnia magna. Nanotoxicology, in press.

Petersen, E. J. Ecotoxicological effects of carbon nanotubes: methodological issues and current research. 2014. Health and environmental safety of nanomaterials (ed. Njuguna et al.). in press.

Petersen, E. J. Henry, T. B., Zhao, J., MacCuspie, R. I., Kirschling, T. L., Dobrovolskaia, M. A., Hackley, V., Xing, B., White, J. C. Identification and avoidance of potential artifacts and misinterpretations in nanomaterial ecotoxicity measurements. 2014, Environmental Science and Technology, 48 (8), 4226-4246.

Petersen, E. J., Lam, T., Gorham, J. M., Scott, K. C., Long, C. J., Stanley, D., Sharma, R., Liddle, J. A., Pellegrin, B., Nguyen, T. 2014. Methods to assess the impact of UV irradiation on the surface chemistry and structure of multiwall carbon nanotube epoxy nanocomposites. Carbon, 69, 194-205.

Weber, K. P., Petersen, E. J., Bissegger, S., Koch, I., Zhang, J., Reimer, K. J., Rehmann L., Slawson, R. M., Legge, R. L., O'Carroll, D. M. 2014. Effect of gold nanoparticles and ciprofloxacin on microbial catabolism: A community-based approach. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 33(1), 44-51.

Guo, X., Dong, S., Petersen, E. J., Gao, S. Huang, Q., Gu, C., Mao, L. 2013. Biological uptake and depuration of radio-labeled graphene by Daphnia magna. Environmental Science and Technology, 47, pages 12524-12531.

Zhang, L., Petersen, E. J., Habteselassie, M. Y., Mao, L., Huang, Q., 2013. Biodegradation of 14C-labeled multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Environmental Pollution, 181, 335-339.

Pakarinen, K., Petersen, E. J., Avila, L., Waissi-Leinonen, G., Akkanen, J. Leppanen, M., Kukkonen, J. V. K. 2013. A screening study on the fate of fullerenes (nC60) and their toxic implications in natural freshwaters. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 32(6), 1224-1232.

Nelson, B. C., Petersen, E. J., Marquis, B. J., Atha, D. H., Elliott, J. T., Cleveland, D., Watson, S. S., Tseng, I. H., Dillon, A., Theodore, M., Jackman, J. 2013. NIST Gold Nanoparticle Reference Materials Do Not Induce Oxidative DNA Damage. Nanotoxicology. 7(1), 21-29.

Petersen, E. J., Tu, X., Dizdaroglu, M., Zheng, M., Nelson, B. C. 2013. Protective roles of single-walled carbon nanotubes in ultrasonication-induced DNA base damage. Small, 9(2), 205-208.

O'Carroll, D. M., Liu, X., Mattison, N. T., Petersen, E. J. 2013. Impact of size on carbon nanotube transport in natural porous media. Journal of Colloid & Interface Science, 390(1), 96-104.

Petersen, E. J., Pinto, R. A., Shi, X., Huang, Q.2012. Impact of size and sorption on degradation of trichloroethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls by nano-scale zerovalent iron. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 243, 73-79.

Waissi-Leinonen, G. C., Petersen, E. J., Pakarinen, K., Akkanen, J., Leppanen, M. T., Kukkonen, J. V. K. 2012. Toxicity of fullerene (C60) to sediment-dwelling invertebrate Chironomus riparius larvae. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 31(9), 2108-2116.

Zhang, L., Petersen, E. J., Zhang, W., Chen, Y. S., Cabrera, M., Huang, Q. 2012. Phase distribution of 14C-labeled multi-walled carbon nanotubes in aqueous systems containing model solids: clay. Environmental Pollution. 166, 75-81.

Cleveland, D., Long, S. E., Pennington, P. L., Cooper, E. Fulton, M. H., Scott, G. I., Brewer, T., Davis, J., Petersen, E. J., Wood, L. Pilot estuarine mesocosm study on the environmental fate of silver nanomaterials leached from consumer products. Science of the Total Environment. 2012,421-422, 267-272.

Atha, D. H., Wang, H., Petersen, E. J., Cleveland, D., Holbrook, R. D., Jaruga, P., Dizdaroglu, M., Xing, B. S., Nelson, B. C. 2011. Copper oxide nanoparticle mediated DNA damage in terrestrial plant models. 2012. Environmental Science and Technology. 46(3), 1819-1827.

Petersen, E. J., Henry, T. B. 2012. Methodological considerations for testing the ecotoxicity of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.31(1), 60-72.

Petersen, E. J., Zhang, L., Mattison, N. T., O'Carroll, D. M., Whelton, A. J., Uddin, N., Nguyen, T., Huang, Q., Henry, T. B., Holbrook, R. D., Chen, K. L. 2011. Potential release pathways, environmental fate, and ecological risks of carbon nanotubes. Environmental Science and Technology. 45(23), 9837-9856.

Mattison, N. T., O'Carroll, D. M., Rowe, R. K., Petersen, E. J. 2011. Impact of Porous Media Grain Size on the Transport of Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes. Environmental Science and Technology, 45(22), 9765-9775.

Tervonen, K., Petersen, E. J.,Leppanen, M., Akkanen, J., Kukkonen, J. V. K., 2011. Toxic Effects and Uptake of Fullerenes Spiked to Sediments by Lumbriculus variegatus. Environmental Pollution. 159(12), 3750-3756.

Petersen, E. J.,Henry, T. B. 2011. Ecotoxicity of fullerenes and carbon nanotubes: a critical review of evidence for nano-size effects. Invited submission to ACS Book Biotechnology and nanotechnology risk assessment: minding and managing the potential threats around us. 103-119.

Henry, T. B., Petersen, E. J.,Compton, R. N. 2011. Aqueous fullerene nanoscale aggregates (nC60) generate minimal reactive oxygen species and are of low toxicity in fish: a revision of previous reports. Current Opinions in Biotechnology. 22(4), 533-537. 

Petersen, E. J.,Pinto, R. A., Zheng, L., Huang, Q., Landrum, P. F., Weber, W. J. Jr. 2011. Effects of Polyethyleneimine-Mediated Functionalization of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes on Earthworm Bioaccumulation and Sorption by soils. Environmental Science and Technology. 45, (8), 3718-3724.

Petersen, E. J.,Tang, J., Weber, W. J., Jr. 2011. The Effects of Aging and Mixed Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid Sources in Soil Systems on Earthworm Bioaccumulation, Microbial Degradation, Sequestration, and Aqueous Desorption of Pyrene. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. 30, (4), 988-996.

Zhang, L., Petersen, E. J., Huang, Q. 2011. Phase Distribution of 14C-labeled Multi-walled Carbon Nanotubes in Aqueous Systems Containing Model Solids: Peat. Environmental Science and Technology. 44, (4), 1356-1362. 

Petersen, E. J., Pinto, R. A., Mai, D. J., Landrum, P. F., Weber, W. J., Jr. 2011. Influence of Polyethyleneimine Graftings of Carbon Nanotubes on their Accumulation and Elimination by and Toxicity to Daphnia magna. Environmental Science and Technology. 44, (3), 1133-1138.


Photo of Elijah Petersen.


Environmental Engineer
Biosystems and Biomaterials Division
Cell Systems Science Group

Employment History:

2007-2008 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Joensuu, Finland

2008-2009 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

2009-2010 NRC Postdoc, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD

2010-present Research Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD


2003 Case Western Reserve University, BS and MS in Civil Engineering, BA in Psychology

2007 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, PhD in Environmental Engineering


Phone: (301)-975-8142