Dharni Vasudevan

Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies, Chair of Chemistry Department

Teaching this semester

BIOL 1158/CHEM 1105/ENVS 2201. Perspectives in Environmental Science

Understanding environmental challenges requires scientific knowledge about the different spheres of the Earth -- land, water, air, and life -- and how they interact. Presents integrated perspectives across the fields of biology, chemistry, and earth and oceanographic science to examine the scientific basis for environmental change from the molecular to the global level. Foundational principles are developed to address major course themes, including climate change, energy, soil/air/water pollution, chemical exposure and risk, land use change, and biodiversity loss. Laboratory sessions consist of local field trips, laboratory experiments, group research, case study exercises, and discussions of current and classic scientific literature.

CHEM 2050/ENVS 2255/EOS 2325. Environmental Chemistry

Focuses on two key processes that influence human and wildlife exposure to potentially harmful substances, chemical speciation and transformation. Equilibrium principles as applied to acid-base, complexation, precipitation, and dissolution reactions are used to explore organic and inorganic compound speciation in natural and polluted waters; quantitative approaches are emphasized. Weekly laboratory sections are concerned with the detection and quantification of organic and inorganic compounds in air, water, and soils/sediments.

Dr. Vasudevan's research is concerned with the fate of synthetic and naturally occurring organic and inorganic compounds. Her work focuses on the mechanisms by which organic and inorganic compounds interact with mineral surfaces in soil and aquatic environments. Central research issues include the study of sorption, desorption and coordination chemistry; surface complexation theory; mineral precipitation, dissolution, and weathering; and surface-assisted chemical transformation processes. Dr. Vasudevan and her group use a combination of controlled laboratory experiments, molecular and surface complexation modeling, and statistical tools in their research. Completed and current projects have emphasized the study of iron oxide rich soils, and pure phase minerals (iron, aluminum and titanium oxides, silica, and kaolinite) and include:

  • Polar and ionic organic compound (pesticides/herbicides, pharmaceuticals) sorption-desorption in soils;,
  • Sorption of organic ligands with -OH, -COOH, -NH2, heterocyclic N groups at the metal-oxide water interface;
  • Influence of phosphate on organic compound retention in soils;
  • Fluoride sorption to soils and associated aluminum release.
  • Sorption of approved tracers and their potential use as surrogates for pesticide fate and transport;
  • Chemometric analysis of pesticide and pharmaceutical retention in soils


  • Ph.D. Environmental Chemistry, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; Baltimore, MD, 1996
  • M.S.E. Environmental Engineering, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; Baltimore, MD, 1992
  • B.S. Environmental Engineering Science, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cambridge, MA, 1990

PDF Curriculum Vitae


  • W.C. Jolin, J. Sullivan*, D. VASUDEVAN, A.A. MacKay* 2016. Column chromatography to obtain organic cation sorption isotherms. Environmental Science and Technology, 50, 8196-8204.
  • M. D’Alessio, D. VASUDEVAN, J. Lichwa, S. K. Mohanty, C. Ray 2014. Fate and transport of selected estrogen compounds in Hawaii soils: effect of soil type and macropores. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 166, 1-10.
  • M. Samaraweera, W. Jolin, D. VASUDEVAN, A.A. MacKay, J. Gascon. 2014. Atomistic prediction of sorption free energies of cationic aromatic amines on montmorillonite: A linear interaction energy method. Environmental Science and Technology Letters, 1, 284-298.
  • D. Vasudevan, T.A. Arey*, D.R. Dickstein*, M.H. Newman*, T.Y. Zhang*, H.M. Kinnear*, and M.M. Bader*. 2013. Nonlinearity of cationic aromatic amine sorption to aluminosilicates and soils: Role of cation-π interactions, Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 14119-14127.
  • A.A. MacKay and D. VASUDEVAN. 2012. Polyfunctional ionogenic compound sorption: Challenges and new approaches to advance predictive models, Environmental Science and Technology, 46, 9209-9223.
  • Figueroa-Diva, R.A., D. VASUDEVAN., A.A. MacKay.. 2010.  Trends in Soil Sorption Coefficients Within Common Antimicrobial Families.  Chemosphere, 79, 786-793.
  • Cooper, E.M., and D. VASUDEVAN. 2009.  Hydroxynaphthoic acid isomer sorption to goethite.  Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 333, 85-96.
  • VASUDEVAN, D., G.L. Bruland, B.S. Torrance*, V.G. Upchurch*, A.A. MacKay. 2009. pH-dependent Ciprofloxacin Sorption to Soils: Interaction mechanisms and soil factors influencing sorption. Geoderma. 151, 68-76.
  • Carrasquillo*, A.J., G.L. Bruland, A.A. MacKay, D. VASUDEVAN. 2008. Sorption of ciprofloxacin and oxytetracycline zwitterions to soils and soil minerals: Influence of compound structure. Environmental Science and Technology, 2008, 42, 7634-7642. 
  • Fimmen, R.L., D.D. Richter Jr., D. VASUDEVAN, M.A. Williams, L.T. West. 2008. Rhizogenic Fe-C redox cycling in deep upland soils: A hypothetical biogeochemical mechanism that drives crustal weathering. Biogeochemistry, 87, 127-141. 
  • Fimmen, R.L., T.D. Trouts, D.D. Richter, D. VASUDEVAN. 2008. Improved speciation of dissolved organic nitrogen in natural waters: amide hydrolysis with fluorescence derivatization. Journal of Environmental Sciences, 20, 1273-1280. 
  • Trivedi, P. and D.VASUDEVAN.  2007. Spectroscopic Investigation of Ciprofloxacin Speciation at the Goethite-Water Interface.  Environmental Science and Technology, 41, 3153-3158.
  • Jones, A.D., G. L. Bruland, S.G. Agrawal, D. VASUDEVAN. 2005. Factors influencing oxytetracycline sorption to soils. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 24, 761-770.
  • VASUDEVAN, D. and E.M. Cooper. 2004. 2,4-D Sorption in Iron-Oxide Rich Soils: Role of soil phosphate and exchangeable Al. Environmental Science and Technology, 38, 163-170.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF (156K)
  • Harrington, L.F, E.M. Cooper, and D. VASUDEVAN. 2003. Fluoride sorption and related Al release in variable charge soils. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 267, 302-313.
  • VASUDEVAN, D., E.M. Cooper, and O.L. Van Exem. 2002. Sorption-Desorption of ionogenic compounds at the mineral-water interface: A comparison of metal oxide rich soils and pure phase minerals. Environmental Science and Technology, 36, 501-511.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF (171K)
  • VASUDEVAN, D., R.L. Fimmen, and A.B. Francisco. 2001a. Tracer Grade Rhodamine WT: Structure of constituent isomers and their sorption behavior. Environmental Science and Technology, 35, 4089-4096.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF (188K)
  • VASUDEVAN, D., P. J. Dorley, and X. Zhuang. 2001b. Adsorption of hydroxy- pyridines and quinolines at the metal oxide-water interface: Role of tautomeric equilibrium. Environmental Science and Technology, 35, 2006-3013.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF  (119K)
  • Sutton, D., Z.J. Kabala, A. B. Francisco, and D. VASUDEVAN. 2001c. Limitations and Potential of Commerially Available Rhodamine WT as a Groundwater Tracer. Water Resources Research, 37, 6, 1641-1656.
  • VASUDEVAN, D. and A.T. Stone. 1998a. Adsorption of Catechols, 2-Aminophenols and 1,2-Phenylenediamines at the Metal Oxide/Water Interface: Effect of Metal Oxide Structure. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 202, 1, 1-19.
  • VASUDEVAN, D. and A.T. Stone. 1998b. Adsorption of Dissolved Organic Ligands onto (Hydr)oxide Minerals, In: Soil Chemistry and Ecosystem Health, SSSA Special Publication, 52, SSSA, Madison, WI.
  • Miller, P.L., D. VASUDEVAN, P.M. Gschwend, and A.L. Roberts. 1998c. Transformation of Hexachloroethane in Sulfidic Lake Water. Environmental Science and Technology, 32, 1269-1275.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF (116K)
  • VASUDEVAN, D. and A.T. Stone. 1996. Adsorption of Catechols, 2-Aminophenols and 1,2-Phenylenediamines at the Metal (Hydr)Oxide/Water Interface: Effect of Ring Substituents on the Adsorption onto TiO2, Environmental Science and Technology, 30, 1604-1613.
    Abstract   Full Article:  HTML / PDF (429K)
  • Stone, A.T., A. Torrents, J. Smolen, D. VASUDEVAN, and J. Hadley. 1993. Adsorption of Organic Compounds Possessing Ligand Donor Groups at the Oxide/Water Interface, Environmental Science and Technology, 27, 895-909.
    First Page (PDF) Full Article:  PDF (1809K)

* Bowdoin College Undergraduates
† Duke University Undergraduates

Student Research

Summer 2016-Spring 2017

Leah Alper. Prediction Sorption of Anionic Compounds to Soils: An Evaluation of Probe Compounds (Summer, Spring, Fall)
Danielle Freeman. Predicting the sorption of heterocyclic amines to aluminosilicate clays (Summer, Spring, Fall)
Samuel Shaheen  . Predicting pyridine sorption to aluminosilicate clays: Influence of solid phase composition and structure (Summer)

Summer 2015-Spring 2016

Katherine Carter. The analysis of benzylamine and salicylic acid as potential probe compounds for the development of soil sorption predictive methods (Fall)
Gillian Kramer. Quantifying and Comparing the Nutrient Input of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) on the Terrestrial Ecosystem of a Small Island in the Bay of Fundy  (Summer, Fall)
Alandra Lopez. Evaluation of Salicylic Acid as a Probe for Polyfunctional Ionogenic Compound Sorption via Surface Complexation and Cation Bridging Sorption (Fall, Spring)
John Medina. Evaluation of Phenyltrimethylammonium as a Probe for Sorption of Cationic Organic Compounds to Soils and Sediments (Summer)
James Sullivan. Structure based prediction of substituted pyridine cation exchange to soil aluminosilicates (Summer, Spring, Fall) 

Summer 2014-Spring 2015

Katherine Carter. The analysis of benzylamine and salicylic acid as potential probe compounds for the development of soil sorption predictive methods (Summer)
Alandra Lopez. Evaluation of Salicylic Acid as a Probe Compound to Quantify Surface Complexation and Cation Bridging Sorption to Soils (Summer)
Malik McKnight. Monitoring Polar and Ionic Organic Pharmaceutical Chemicals in Aquatic Ecosystems using an Equilibrium Passive Sampler (Summer, Fall, Spring)
James Sullivan. Environmental Fate of the Toxic Bird-Pesticide Avitrol and Implications on Human and Ecosystem Health (Summer)

Summer 2013-Spring 2014 (Vasudevan on sabbatical leave)
Reaha Goyetche Evaluation of the use of probe compounds to quantify cation exchange and surface complexation to soils. (Fall, Spring)

Summer 2012-Spring 2013
Phoebe Aron An investigation of sedimentary pyrite as an indicator of dourgh tin mid-coast Maine (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Daniel Dickstein The quantification of non-linear sorption of cationic amines to soils and soil minerals. (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Reaha Goyetche Evaluation of the use of probe compounds to quantify cation exchange to soils. (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Basyl Stuyvesant Structure-Activity Relationships for Pyridine Cation Exchange. (Summer, Fall, Spring)

Summer 2011 – Spring 2012
Teresa Arey The effect of cation-pi interactions on the sorption of cationic amines to montmorillonite. (Summer)
Amie Corso Exploring cation bridging as a potential mechanism of phosphate sorption to sediments. (Summer)
Allison Dupont Investigating the effect of agricultural practices on soil carbon and nitrogen – co-advised with P. Camill. (Summer)
Heather Kinnear Investigation of p-phenylene-diamine sorption to montmorillonite. (Summer)
Heather Kinnear Methylamino-L-aniline sediment sorption dynamics. (Fall, Spring)
Phoebe Aron Quantification of pyritic iron and sulfur in Merrymeeting Bay sediments. (Fall, Spring)

Summer 2010 - Spring 2011
Teresa Arey.  Non-linear sorption of cationic amines to montmorillonite (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Allie Dupont.  Investigating nonlinearity in aniline sorption to montmorillonite (Summer)
Andrew Cardamone.  Phosphate sink-source dynamics in Androscoggin River sediments (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Tina Zhang.  Influence of structure on zwitterion sorption to aluminosilicate clays (Summer)
Tina Zhang.  Effect of soil properties in the non-linear sorption of cationic amines to soils (Fall, Spring)

Summer 2009 - Spring 2010

Teresa Arey.  Sorption of Aromatic Amines to Montmorillonite  (Summer)
Mo Bader.  Phenylenediamine sorption to Montmorillonite (Fall, Spring)
Andrew Cardamone.  Phosphorus in Merrymeeting Bay Sediments:  Sink-Source Dynamics (Summer)

Summer 2008 - Spring 2009

Mark Newman. Cationic Amine sorption to aluminosilicates:  inter-molecular interaction (Summer, Fall, Spring)  

Summer 2007 - Spring 2008 (Vasudevan on sabbatical leave)

Anthony Carrasquillo. Influence of Molecular Structure on Sorption of Cationic Amines to Aluminosilicate Clay minerals- (Summer)  

Summer 2006 - Spring 2007  

Kelly Rula. Bioremediation: Principles and Processes (Fall)
Anthony Carrasquillo. Influence of Molecular Structure on Sorption of Cationic Amines to Aluminosilicate Clay minerals- (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Elizabeth Onderko. Retention and desorption of DNA to iron oxides and iron rich minerals (Summer)
Kelly Pitts. Analysis of biodiesel production by transesterification of a high free fatty acid feedstock - Use of waste oil from Bowdoin Dining (Summer)
Brendan Torrance. Probing the Connections Between Wastewater Contamination and Marine Animal Health (Summer)

Summer 2005- Spring 2006

Anthony Carrasquillo. Mechanisms of Oxytetracycline sorption to model soil components (Summer); Analysis of sorption of Oxytetracycline to soils through probe compound analysis (Spring)
Amber Davis. Chemical Analysis of Activity Residues at a Maya Marketplace (Summer, Fall, Spring)
Adam Hall. DNA quantification and sorption to iron oxides (Summer).
Brendan Torrance. Ciprofloxacin sorption to soils (Summer)

Summer 2004-Spring 2005

Tim Cashman: Sorption of oxytetracycline substructures onto metal oxides and aluminosilicates. (Summer and Fall)
Amber Davis: DNA analysis, sorption, and desorption from soil iron oxides.(Summer)
Brendan Torrance: Sorption of Ciprofloxacin onto soils of eastern United States (Summer and Fall).
Virginia Upchurch: Development of a fluorescence based analytical technique for quantifying DNA concentration (Fall).
Virginia Upchruch: Evaluation of the sorption and desorption of ciprofloxacin in soils of the eastern united states (Spring).
Kiersa Benson. A Survey of the Effects of the Sprague River Salt Marsh Restoration (Summer, Fall, Spring) - co advised with L. Whitlow.
Sarah Close. A Survey of the Effects of the Sprague River Salt Marsh Restoration (Summer, Fall, Spring) - co advised with L. Whitlow.


Professor Dharni Vasudevan Helps Detect Chemical Exposure in the Environment