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Foon Yin Lai

Foon Yin Lai
My research is in the field of environmental and analytical chemistry, with interests in studying and mining information on emerging chemical and microbial contaminants in domestic wastewaters and related recipient environments to improve our knowledge on environmental and population health.


I am an Associate Professor in Environmental Chemistry at the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment of SLU. My research focuses on understanding the environmental occurrence, fate and risk of emerging chemical and microbial contaminants due to wastewater reuse and discharges, with the goal of enhancing the exploitation of wastewaters as valuable resources towards sustainable (waste)water reuse. My research also focuses on the use of wastewaters to investigate drug consumption and exposure to emerging contaminants at the population level. To achieve the research aims, another focus of my research is on developing novel analytical methods and workflows for trace analysis of emerging chemical contaminants in different environmental matrices using liquid-chromatograph coupled with low- and high-resolution mass spectrometry, including LC-MS/MS, LC-QTOF-MS and LC-Orbitrap-MS.

My research activities focus on:  

§ Understanding the environmental spread of antibiotic resistance and other emerging contaminants due to wastewater discharges and wastewater reuse (direct and indirect reuse);

§ Studying the presence of emerging contaminants (e.g., illicit/licit drugs, (bio)transformation products, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, antibiotic resistance genes, etc.) in recipient environments and freshwater resources for risk assessment;  

§ Discovery of chemicals inducing antimicrobial resistance in aquatic environments; 

§ Mining chemical information in urban wastewaters to estimate population-wide consumption of drugs and exposure to emerging contaminants (known as wastewater-based epidemiology);

§ Development and validation of (bio)analytical strategies for identification and quantification of emerging chemical contaminants in the environment.


Current projects

§ To resue or not: is purified wastewater a non-toxic and sustainable resource for the future? (REASSURE), 2022, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Main applicant. 

§ Sustainable use of water resources: protection from contaminants of emerging concern towards a non-toxic environment, 2021, SLU Career Grant Award. 

§ Impact of transformation products of antimicrobial chemicals on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in aquatic environments (Impact), 2020, Swedish Research Council. Main applicant. 

§ Stopping spreads of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotics from on-site sewage facilities to the groundwater (STOP-ARG), 2019, FORMAS. Main applicant.

§ Blackwater treatment and fate of pharmaceuticals and antibiotic resistance genes (Blackwater), Formas. Co-participant (main applicant Karin Wiberg).

§ Early detection of organic micropollutants in aquatic ecosystems, Foundation Oscar och Lili Lamms Mine. Co-applicant (main applicant Lutz Ahrens).


Research supervision (Post-doc, PhD/licentiate/Master students)

Post-doc (main supervisor): Uzair Khan (2022-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU.

PhD student (main supervisor): Harold Flores (2023-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

PhD student (main supervisor): Paul Löffler (2021-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

PhD student (main supervisor): Valentina Ugolini (2021-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

PhD student (co-supervisor): Svante Rehnstam (2021-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

PhD student (co-supervisor): Winnie Nasazzi (2019-2023), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU.

Licentiate student (co-supervisor): Natnael Girma (2020-present), Department of Energy and Technology, SLU.

Master student (main supervisor): Inga Haalck (2022), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

Master student (main supervisor): Annika Niemeyer (2019), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 


10/2020 - Associate Professor (Docent) in Environmental Chemistry, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences (NJ), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden.

05/2014 - Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Forensic Chemistry, Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS), The University of Queensland, Australia. 

08/2009 - Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Environmental Chemistry, Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. 

08/2007 - Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry (First Class Honours), Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. 


Selected publications

Selected peer-reviewed articles (full list see Scopus author ID:57200819953)

  • Ugolini V. & Lai F.Y. Novel, alternative analytical methodology for determination of antimicrobial chemicals in aquatic environments and public use assessment: Extraction sorbent, microbiological sensitivity, stability, and applicability. Analytica Chimica Acta, 2024, 1286, 342029.
  • Löffler P., Escher B.I., Baduel C., Virta M.P., Lai F.Y. Antimicrobial transformation products in the aquatic environment: Global occurrence, ecotoxicological risks, and potential of antibiotic resistance. Environmental Science and Technology, 2023, 57, 9474–9494. 
  • Demissie N., Simha P., Lai F.Y., Ahrens L., Mussabek D., Desta A., Vinnerås B. Degradation of 75 organic micropollutants in fresh human urine and water by UV advanced oxidation process. Water Research, 2023, 242, 120221. 
  • Caracciolo R., Escher B., Lai F.Y., Nguyen T. A., Le T.M.T., Schlichting R., Tröger R., Némery J., Wiberg K., Nguyen P.D., Baduel C. Impact of a megacity on the water quality of a tropical estuary assessed by a combination of chemical analysis and in-vitro bioassays. Science of The Total Environment, 2023, 877, 162525. 
  • Nassazzi W., Lai F.Y., Ahrens L. A novel method for extraction, clean-up and analysis of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in different plant matrices using LC-MS/MS. Journal of Chromatography B, 2022, 1212, 123514. 
  • Gao J., Burgard D.A., Tscharke B.J., Lai F.Y., O'Brien J.W., Nguyen H.D., Zheng Q., Li J., Du P., Li X., Wang D., Castiglioni S., Cruz-Cruz C., Baz-Lomba J.A., Yargeau V., Emke E., Thomas K.V., Mueller J.F., Thai P.K. Refining the estimation of amphetamine consumption by wastewater-based epidemiology. Water Research, 2022, 225, 119182. 
  • Tröger R., Ren H., Yin D., Postigo C., Nguyen P.D., Baduel C., Golovko O., Been F., Joerss H., Boleda M.R., Polesello S., Roncoroni M., Taniyasu S., Menger F., Ahrens L., Lai F.Y., Wiberg K. What's in the water? – Target and suspect screening of contaminants of emerging concern in raw water and drinking water from Europe and Asia. Water Research, 2021, 117099. 
  • Bollinger E., Zubrod J.P., Lai F.Y., Ahrens L., Filker S., Lorke A., Bundschuh M. Antibiotics as a silent driver of climate change? A case study investigating methane production in freshwater sediments. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2021, 228, 113025. 
  • Haalck I., Löffler P., Baduel C., Wiberg K., Ahrens L., Lai F.Y. Mining chemical information in Swedish wastewaters for simultaneous assessment of population consumption, treatment efficiency and environmental discharge of illicit drugs. Scientific Reports, 2021, 13510. 
  • Lai F.Y., Muziasari W., Virta M., Wiberg K., Ahrens L. Profiles of environmental antibiotic resistomes in the urban aquatic recipients of Sweden using high-throughput quantitative PCR analysis. Environmental Pollution, 2021, 287, 117651.
  • González-Mariño I., Baz-Lomba J.A., Alygizakis N.A., Andrés-Costa M.J., Bade R., … Lai F.Y., …, Zuccato E., Castiglioni S., Ort C. Spatio-temporal assessment of illicit drug use at large scale: evidence from 7 years of international wastewater monitoring. Addiction, 2020, 115, 109–120.
  • Vervliet P., Mortelé O., Gys C., Degreef M., Lanckmans K., Maudens K., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N., Lai F.Y. Suspect and non-target screening workflows to investigate the in vitro and in vivo metabolism of the synthetic cannabinoid 5Cl-THJ-018. Drug Testing and Analysis, 2019, 11, 479–491.