P. Lee Ferguson

P. Lee Ferguson

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Ferguson is an Environmental Analytical Chemist who joined Duke in 2009 after six years as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.

Research in the Ferguson laboratory is focused on development of novel methods for trace analysis of organic and nanoparticulate contaminants in the aquatic environment. Specifically, the laboratory uses high performance mass spectrometry techniques (e.g. UHPLC-Orbitrap MS/MS) to detect, identify, and quantify emerging contaminants (including endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals, and surfactants) in wastewater and drinking water. Another significant research thrust involves the development of sensitive trace analytical techniques for quantifying and characterizing single-walled carbon nanotubes in water, sediment, and aquatic organism tissues. For this work, near infrared fluorescence spectroscopy (NIRF) is used as a primary tool for resolving these novel nanoparticulate contaminants in highly complex environmental mixtures.

The analytical methods developed in the Ferguson laboratory laboratory (for both nanoparticles and organic contaminants) are applied to both process-oriented environmental chemistry experiments in the field and laboratory as well as to toxicity bioassays (including whole-organism assays and molecular endpoints). The overarching goal is to gain an increased understanding of how emerging contaminants are transported, transformed and induce deleterious effects within aquatic ecosystems.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2002

Research Interests

Environmental analytical chemistry and applications of high resolution mass spectrometry to trace organic contaminant analysis, environmental fate and effects of carbon nanomaterials in the aquatic environment, proteomics in environmental toxicology, and mechanisms of environmental endocrine disruption in aquatic organisms


Environmental Engineering
Environmental Impacts

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow. National Academy of Sciences. 2011
  • Outstanding Performance Award. Fundamental Science Directorate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. 2003
  • President's Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students. Stony Brook University. 2002
  • Honorable Mention. National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Competition. 1998
  • U.S. EPA STAR Graduate Fellowship. Environmental Protection Agency. 1998
  • Belle W. Baruch Outstanding Undergrduate in Marine Science Award. University of South Carolina. 1997
  • Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellow. University of South Carolina. 1996
  • Senior Scholars Scholarship. University of South Carolina. 1996
  • Undergraduate Research Fellow, South Carolina EPSCoR. National Science Foundation. 1995

Courses Taught

  • CEE 461L: Chemical Principles in Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 561L: Environmental Aquatic Chemistry
  • CEE 565: Environmental Analytical Chemistry
  • CEE 667: Chemical Transformation of Environmental Contaminants
  • CEE 690: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • ENVIRON 542L: Environmental Aquatic Chemistry
  • ENVIRON 566: Environmental Analytical Chemistry
  • ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects
  • ENVIRON 667: Chemical Transformation of Environmental Contaminants
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project
  • ENVIRON 997: Duke Environmental Leadership: Independent Studies and Projects
  • ENVIRON 999: Duke Environmental Leadership: Master's Project

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Stravs, MA; Mechelke, J; Ferguson, PL; Singer, H; Hollender, J, Microvolume trace environmental analysis using peak-focusing online solid-phase extraction-nano-liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry., Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, vol 408 no. 7 (2016), pp. 1879-1890 [abs].
  • Czaplicki, LM; Cooper, E; Ferguson, PL; Stapleton, HM; Vilgalys, R; Gunsch, CK, A New Perspective on Sustainable Soil Remediation-Case Study Suggests Novel Fungal Genera Could Facilitate in situ Biodegradation of Hazardous Contaminants, Remediation, vol 26 no. 2 (2016), pp. 59-72 [10.1002/rem.21458] [abs].
  • Li, HX; Getzinger, GJ; Ferguson, PL; Orihuela, B; Zhu, M; Rittschof, D, Effects of Toxic Leachate from Commercial Plastics on Larval Survival and Settlement of the Barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite., Environmental Science & Technology, vol 50 no. 2 (2016), pp. 924-931 [abs].
  • Getzinger, GJ; O'Connor, MP; Hoelzer, K; Drollette, BD; Karatum, O; Deshusses, MA; Ferguson, PL; Elsner, M; Plata, DL, Natural Gas Residual Fluids: Sources, Endpoints, and Organic Chemical Composition after Centralized Waste Treatment in Pennsylvania., Environmental Science & Technology, vol 49 no. 14 (2015), pp. 8347-8355 [abs].
  • Bisesi, J; Ngo, T; Ponnavolu, S; Liu, K; Lavelle, C; Afrooz, ARM; Saleh, N; Ferguson, P; Denslow, N; Sabo-Attwood, T, Examination of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes Uptake and Toxicity from Dietary Exposure: Tracking Movement and Impacts in the Gastrointestinal System, Nanomaterials, vol 5 no. 2 (2015), pp. 1066-1086 [10.3390/nano5021066] [abs].