Bettina M. Voelker, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines, studies chemical processes regulating the composition of natural waters. She is particularly interested in short-lived oxygen compounds called reactive oxygen species, which may have important effects on the transport and biological interactions of toxic and nutrient metal ions and on the breakdown of man-made pollutants. Although the main source of reactive oxygen species to natural fresh waters is assumed to be sunlight-driven chemical reactions, Voelker has recently discovered that there is also significant biological production.
While at Radcliffe, Voelker plans to work with Harvard professor Colleen Hansel to examine which types of aquatic organisms are important producers of extracellular reactive oxygen species, and what biochemical mechanisms are involved. These are important first steps towards determining whether aquatic organisms are producing these compounds intentionally to manipulate their chemical environment. Voelker will also be working on an advanced undergraduate-level textbook, titled “Environmental Chemistry: From Principles to Processes.”
Voelker received her PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in 1994 and was awarded a postdoctoral scholarship from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1995. From 1996 to 2004, she was on the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she held the Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization and the Gilbert W. Winslow Career Development Chair. Her work is primarily funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.