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Environmental Cheminformatics

The Environmental Cheminformatics group, led by Dr. Emma Schymanski, strives to develop methods to identify unknown chemicals and their effects on health and disease. The environment and the chemicals to which we are exposed play a far greater role in the cause of disease than previously thought. The cause of Parkinson's disease (PD) can only be attributed to genetic mutations in ~10% of cases, with other causes largely unknown. This group will investigate several potential links between chemical exposure and PD. Access to high quality environmental data, detection of relevant chemicals and mixture effects are key bottlenecks to developing causal links between environmental factors and diseases such as PD, which are also issues this group will tackle. Many of our methods focus on non-target high resolution mass spectrometry (HR-MS), which provides both a “snapshot" of chemicals present in a sample and a digital record for retrospective interpretation and has revolutionized discovery-based science. Since we are still unable to identify the vast majority of chemicals found in environmental samples, while those we can identify are often unable to explain toxic effects, cheminformatics methods to improve the identification of unknowns play a critical role in this group. This unidentified “dark matter” in both organisms and our environment has the potential to reveal many secrets about causes of disease, biological processes, human activities, organisms and their interactions with the environment and this group will combine non-target screening and cheminformatics methods to explore this unchartered territory.