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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. 

Nanotechnology involves the synthesis and manipulation of materials in the size range from 1 to 100 nm. Materials having a characteristic dimension less than 100 nm often exhibit remarkable new properties and behaviors that differ significantly from those of larger bulk-scale materials having the same elemental composition. These materials thus have virtually boundless potential applications, but they may also pose new or exacerbated environmental risks.  Given the anticipated widespread use of nanomaterials in the near future, it is inevitable that they will enter into various human and ecologically critical environments and media.  Understanding these potential risks through the development of a scientifically rigorous research foundation 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.

To help address this critical research need, a multi-faceted nanoecotoxicological investigation will be conducted.  Using select nanomaterials, their ecological uptake and elimination behaviors and biodistribution will be measured and each nanomaterial's potential to induce DNA damage will be characterized and quantified.  This research will rely upon the development of new procedures and methods to measure nanomaterial concentrations in model ecological organisms as well as the development and use of advanced analytical procedures (i.e., TEM) for identifying the location of nanomaterials within organisms.   The ecotoxicological impacts of nanomaterial exposure will be measured by quantifying DNA damage lesions using mass spectrometry techniques.  This research is intended to identify the potential ecotoxicological risks various nanomaterials may pose prior to their widespread use in consumer goods, thus helping to provide a scientifically rigorous foundation for the safe usage of nanomaterials.

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

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., Tu, X., Dizdaroglu, M., Zheng, M., Nelson, B. C. 2012. Protective roles of single-walled carbon nanotubes in ultrasonication-induced DNA base damage. Small, In press.

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, In press.

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. 2012. NIST Gold Nanoparticle Reference Materials Do Not Induce Oxidative DNA Damage. Nanotoxicology. In press.

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.

Petersen, E. J., Nelson, B. C. 2010. Mechanisms and measurements of nanomaterial-induced oxidative DNA damage. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 398, 613-650.

Petersen, E. J., Huang, Q., Weber, W. J., Jr. 2010. Relevance of octanol-water distribution measurements to the potential ecological uptake of carbon nanotubes. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 29, (5), 1106-1112.

Tervonen, K., Waissi, G., Petersen, E.J., Akkanen, J., Kukkonen J.V.K. 2010. Analysis of fullerene-C60 and kinetic measurements for its accumulation and depuration in Daphnia magna. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 29, (5), 1072-1078.

Liu, X., O'Carroll, D.M., Petersen, E.J., Huang, Q., Anderson, L. 2009. Mobility of multi-walled carbon nanotubes in porous media. Environmental Science & Technology. 43, (21), 8153-8158.

Petersen, E. J., Akkanen, J., Kukkonen, J. V. K., Weber, W. J., Jr. 2009. Biological Uptake and Depuration of Carbon Nanotubes by Daphnia magna. Environmental Science & Technology. 43, (8), 2969-2975.

Shi, X.Y., Wang, S.H., Shen, M., Antwerp, M. E., Chen, X., Li, C., Petersen, E. J. Huang, Q.G., Weber, W.J., Jr., Baker, J.R., Jr. 2009. Multifunctional Dendrimer-Modified Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes: Synthesis, Characterization, and in vitro Cancer Cell Targeting and Imaging. Biomacromolecules. 10, (7), 1744-1750.

Petersen, E. J., Pinto R.A., Landrum, P. F., Weber, W. J., Jr. 2009. Influence of Carbon Nanotubes on Pyrene Bioaccumulation from Contaminated Soils by Earthworms. Environmental Science & Technology. 43, (11), 4181-4187.

Shen, M., Wang, S.H., Shi X., Huang Q., Petersen, E.J., Pinto R.A., Baker, J.R., Jr., and Weber, W. J., Jr. 2009. Polyethyleneimine-Mediated Functionalization of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes: Synthesis, Characterization, and in vitro Toxicity Assay. Journal of Physical Chemistry C. 113, (8), 3150-3156.

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