SUNY Potsdam chemistry professor recognized for research excellence
Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 11:11 am

POTSDAM -- SUNY Potsdam Professor of Chemistry Dr. Fadi Bou-Abdallah was awarded a 2019 T. Urling and Mabel Walker Research Fellowship for his project, "Design of a Sensor for Lead Detection in Drinking Water."

The discovery of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Mich., drew national attention to the health risks posed by this toxic metal. Exposure to lead can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in young children, but can also affect the health of adults. Because there is no safe blood lead threshold in children, there is an urgent need to develop innovative methodologies to detect lead in drinking water, before exposure occurs, and that is exactly what this work is trying to achieve, Bou-Abdallah said.

Some residents of Orleans, in Jefferson County, are also now discovering that their drinking water from private wells may be as bad as the water in Flint. Additionally, a recent report by Reuters found people served by wells in the North Country (and likely nationwide) drink, bathe and cook with water containing potentially dangerous amounts of lead. The severity of this problem has been highlighted in many news reports all across the U.S., to a point where some lawmakers were compelled to sponsor legislation requiring New York school districts to regularly test water for lead contamination.

"Lead contamination in our drinking water is a serious health issue that cannot be ignored, and it will not go away," Bou-Abdallah said. "Unless we invest the time, effort and use our expertise to propose solutions to this potentially deadly problem, people's health and well-being, and our region's social and economic problems, will be directly, and negatively impacted."

Bou-Abdallah recently had his research featured as the cover story in one of the top journals in the field of metallomics. Bou-Abdallah and his colleagues at Clarkson University and the University of Brescia in Italy had their research paper titled "Ferritin exhibits Michaelis-Menten behavior with oxygen but not with iron during iron oxidation and core mineralization" published in the journal Metallomics.

"The literature is full of misleading and incorrect information. There is increasing concern that a good majority of published research claims false findings or data manipulation," Bou-Abdallah said.

The novelty of the research and experimental set-up and execution prompted the executive editor of the journal to highlight the findings on the cover of the journal.

"I am pleased to see our findings featured on the cover of the journal. This speaks volumes of the importance of undergraduate research and the high impact science that we do here at SUNY Potsdam," Bou-Abdallah said.

The purpose of the Walker Fellowship is to encourage faculty from the region's 11 institutions of higher education to undertake research on critical issues confronting North Country communities, and to make recommendations for possible solutions. To learn more, visit