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Elijah Petersen (Fed)

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.

In vitro and acellular assays can play an important role in determining the potential toxicity of compounds to humans and ecological receptors. To establish the extent of the biological relevance of these assays in predicting the effects in physiological systems, a high-level of confidence in the precision and robustness of these assay measurements is required. My research focuses on comprehensive evaluation of in vitro assays to improve the repeatability and interlaboratory agreement of the assay results. This could entail using cause-and-effect analysis to understand sources of variability in the assay, designing new plate layouts that include key process control measurements, and utilizing appropriate statistical analyses to understand the assay results and their uncertainties. This process should lead to improvements in the comparability and reproducibility of assay results within and between laboratories. Another source of ongoing research is how best to design in process control measurements such as the positive chemical control to maximize the confidence in the assay results. Overall, these efforts will help create a process for increasing measurement assurance for in vitro assays, facilitating their standardization and their use in adverse outcome pathway models.

Selected Recent Publications

Petersen, E. J., Hirsch, C., Elliott, J. T., Krug, H. F., Aengenheister, L., Arif, A. T., Bogni, A., Kinsner-Ovaskainen, A., May, S., Walser, T., Wick, P., Roesslein, M. Cause-and-effect analysis as a tool to improve the reproducibility of nanobioassays: four case studies. 2020, Chemical Research in Toxicology, in press.

Petersen, E. J., Montoro Bustos, A. R., Toman, B., Johnson, M., Ellefson, M., Caceres, G. C., Neuer, A. L., Chan, Q., Kemling, J., Mader, B., Murphy, K., Roesslein, M. Determining what really counts: modeling and measuring nanoparticle number concentrations, 2019, Environmental Science: Nano, 6, 2876-2896.

Petersen, E. J., Mortimer, M., Burgess, R. M., Handy, R., Hanna, S., Ho, K. T., Johnson, M., Loureiro, S., Selck, H., Scott-Fordsmand, J. J., Spurgeon, D., Unrine, J., van den Brink, N., Wang, Y., White, J., Holden, P. Strategies for robust and accurate experimental approaches to quantify nanomaterial bioaccumulation across a broad range of organisms, 2019, Environmental Science: Nano, 6, 1619-1656.

Hanna, S., Montoro Bustos, A., Peterson, A. W., Reipa, V., Scanlan, L. D., Hosbas Coskun, S., Cho, T. J., Johnson, M. E., Hackley, V. A., Nelson, B. C., Winchester, M. R., Elliott, J. T., Petersen, E. J. Agglomeration of Escherichia coli with positively charged nanoparticles can lead to artifacts in a standard Caenorhabditis elegans toxicity assay, 2018, Environmental Science and Technology, 52(10), 5968-5978.


  • 2020 Young Investigator Award Chemical Research in Toxicology
  • 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
  • 2019 Department of Commerce Bronze Award
  • 2016 Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) Emerging Investigator Award
  • 2010 Best Poster Award at the 3rd International Conference on Advanced Nano Materials, Agadir, Morocco
  • 2007 Fulbright Scholarship to Finland
  • 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
  • Phi Beta Kappa


Federal perspective on critical research issues in nanoEHS

Janet Carter, Sri Nadadur, Rhema Bjorkland, William Boyes, Chuck Geraci, Vincent A. Hackley, John Howard, Alan Kennedy, Igor Linkov, Joanna Matheson, Holly Mortensen, Custudio Muinga, Elijah Petersen, Nora Savage, Stacey Standridge, Trey Thomas, Benjamin Trump
This article discusses critical issues and opportunities going forward in nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (nanoEHS) research from the
Created October 9, 2019, Updated December 8, 2022