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The Detox Duo

There is no such thing as “dull as dirt” for associate professor of microbiology Anthony Hay and assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering Ludmilla Aristilde BFA ’03, BS ’03. These scientists take their soil and water—and how chemicals behave in both—very seriously. Dubbing his research “bugs on drugs,” Hay studies how microbes detoxify the active ingredients in everyday personal care products, such as ibuprofen or triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent commonly found in hand soap and toothpaste. Aristilde’s more chemical approach complements Hay’s microbiological methodology. Using molecular chemistry, biochemistry and computer simulations, she explores the mechanisms of how natural and synthetic organics enter the environment, why they hang around, how they break down, and how long they persist. Together they investigate the hazards that organic chemicals found in everything from pharmaceuticals to pesticides pose to sensitive aquatic and terrestrial species, helping identify products that could be potentially harmful to both human and environmental health.

periodiCALS, Fall 2013  

The magazine of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences