Professor Lynch’s team is researching what happens to nanoparticles – tiny particles added to a wide range of everyday products to make them better (lighter, stronger, brighter, water-repellent, dirt-repellent and more) – in the environment.
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Nanomaterials have many unique properties that make them useful for a wide range of applications, the main one being that they are very reactive – this also makes them very dynamic – they are constantly transforming and interacting with their surroundings. Understanding these transformations, which can be physical, chemical, or biological, is vital to making sure that products are safe. Her team uses a range of approaches and considers a range of scales of interaction – from the first contact with biomolecules such as proteins, lipids and dissolved organic matter, which adsorb to the nanomaterials surface, changing their surface properties to how nanoparticles interact with cell and organisms, such as the biofilm and the water flea, Daphnia magna. Despite their tiny size, these creatures occupy an important place in the food web and can tell us a lot about how the environment is faring.
Because many of the key biological processes and pathways are similar across species, this can provide information on how nanoparticles might affect other species, including human health. Her team uses this information to feedback into product design, resulting in safer consumer products and to design alternative testing strategies that reduce the need for testing on animals without compromising environmental or human health and safety.
Professor Iseult Lynch is Chair (Professor) of Environmental Nanosciences at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham (UoB). She leads the UoB Institute of Global Innovation & Environmental Pollution Solutions’ cross-cutting team which brings together science, technology, engineering, economics, business and social science to develop strategies for reduction and remediation of legacy and emerging pollutants in water, air and soil. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC), and an Associate Editor of the RSC journal Environmental Science: Nano. She was identified by Thomson Reuters as a Highly Cited Researcher (cross-field) in 2018, and has a h-index of 59 with over 22,500 citations.
Professor Lynch has been at the forefront of nanosafety research for close to 15 years, having pioneered the concept of the nanomaterials protein (biomolecule) corona and more recently, the environmental or eco-corona. Her research aims to understand the interface between engineered nanomaterials and the environment (abiotic and biotic components) and how this determines the nanomaterials’ ultimate fate and behaviour in organisms and the environment. In the last few years, she has been exploring the fate and impacts of microscale and nanoscale plastic waste (microplastics).
She obtained her BSc. and PhD in Chemistry from University College Dublin (UCD) and undertook postdoctoral research at the department of Physical Chemistry 1 in Lund University, before returning to UCD to help establish the Centre for BioNano Interactions. She moved to the University of Birmingham in 2013.