Professor Kevin C. Jones from Lancaster University is the recipient of the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology 2020, making it the 40th recipient of the award. The award was to be presented at the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia. However, this meeting was canceled in response to the impending coronavirus pandemic to protect the health of participants and employees.
As a result, a special edition on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) was published with the title “POPs on the Global Scale: Sources, Distribution, Processes, and Lessons Learned for Chemicals Management” Environmental science and technology. In this edition, instead of the award symposium, the contributions of Professor Jones to ecological organic chemistry are recognized.
As one of the world’s leading organic environmental chemists, Professor Jones’ research focuses on the sources, fates and effects of pollution. His research addresses some fundamental questions about persistent organic chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, waste products, etc.) in fundamental, practical, and real-world implications.
I met with Professor Jones to find out more about his background so far.
What attracted you to ecological organic chemistry?
When I was in school I was amazed at the damage we are doing to our planet by polluting it. That made me decide to study environmental sciences as a diploma. I then had the chance to do a doctoral thesis that actually dealt with heavy metals in the environment and examined the connections and transfers of pollutants between environmental compartments. When I was offered my faculty position in Lancaster, I had an opportunity to consider possible directions for an independent research direction. I attended a Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) conference in North America and was intrigued by the work on studying POPs in the Great Lakes of North America and the Arctic. I was fascinated by the networking of environmental systems. The field seemed integrated and collaborative compared to what I’d experienced before and I think these things – not just the science area – attracted me.
What have been the greatest challenges for you in developing a scientific career?
I started a faculty position very early – at the age of 25. Lancaster had no other staff working in the areas I wanted to develop. As a result, I had many initial challenges of navigating university systems, juggling teaching and research, learning about finance, raising the resources to set up a laboratory, and developing the confidence to approach potential employees and funders. Now when I look back I can see that it was a quick and steep learning curve. Fortunately, I had picked an exciting and productive area and was determined to make things work.
What are some of the most important highlights of your career so far for you?
I could talk about important research or papers, but what I enjoy most is working with enthusiastic and dedicated students and international scholars, helping them start their careers, and nurturing their passion and commitment. I was lucky enough to get almost 100 Ph.D. Students through my career so far, and a large number of them have worked in this discipline – in universities, institutes, companies and organizations around the world. It is very fulfilling to know that their skills are needed and are contributing. I also had a lot of international connections, projects and collaborations that were great fun, had important learning and life experiences and in a way that shows the influence of our work.
What motivates you to be a researcher in this area of environmental science and technology?
A major motivation is to see that the environment has become a part of mainstream thinking in society. Further progress is of course still urgently needed. Another is the feeling of amazement and excitement one gets when studying the natural world and trying to better understand these processes. A third is the desire to help and relieve others, as mentioned above.
What are the major challenges in this area and what tasks can we look forward to with you in the future?
In general, I think we now have a good understanding of how chemicals behave in the environment. We know much less about their effects at low doses, and research on them will continue. The bigger challenges, however, as discussed in my special edition article, are making informed decisions about the risks they pose and reducing unsustainable consumption and societal dependence on chemicals.
Explore articles published by Professor Kevin C. Jones in ACS Publications.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Related Chemicals in the Global Environment: Some Personal Considerations
Surroundings. Science tech 2021, 55, 14, 9400-9412
DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.0c08093
Application of the dynamic DGT technique to determine the unstable pool size and the kinetic pesticide replenishment in soils and sediments
Surroundings. Science tech 2021, 55, 14, 9591-9600
DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.1c01354
Development and application of new DGT passive samplers for the measurement of 12 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in natural water and wastewater
Surroundings. Science tech 2021, 55, 14, 9548-9556
DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.0c08092