Tacoma, Wash. – University of Puget Sound chemistry professor Dan Burgard was honored at this year’s College Science Research Program Conference in Portland, Ore., for his groundbreaking work in the study of community wastewater to track drug usage. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust sponsors the annual conference to advance new knowledge in the natural sciences created or discovered through collaborative faculty-student research.
Burgard is a leader in the emerging field of wastewater-based epidemiology, which includes analyzing and quantifying trace levels of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs. He also serves as part of SCORE, an international collaborative of wastewater researchers to which he reports annual Seattle-area drug consumption trends. His work has been widely featured in both scientific journals and the popular press, including the Associated Press, the Discovery Channel, National Public Radio, Popular Science, and more. He has been a member of the Puget Sound faculty since 2006.
“Professor Burgard is a cutting-edge scientist and one of a handful who are really leading the way in analyzing wastewater and letting us know what that tells us about the communities it’s coming from,” said Puget Sound Provost Laura Behling. “He’s really shown us all what it means to be a citizen-scientist—that science can have a response to community questions and community issues, and that science has something to say about public policy.”
Burgard serves as a mentor to students and to high school teachers, and works closely with undergraduate students in his research endeavors.
“Professor Burgard has really established himself as one of the leading scientists in his area of study, particularly in the way that he’s able to engage in research that allows students to be part of it,” said University of Puget Sound President Isiaah Crawford. “He’s established a program of research that’s deep and broad, and what brings him joy is not only the pursuit of his area of study but his engagement with his students.”
Burgard’s recent research awards include a three-year $344,000 grant from The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) for measuring opioids in wastewater in six cities in Washington state to help assess the effectiveness of a statewide “drug takeback” program aimed at reducing overdoses and poisonings, and protecting the environment; a $121,000 grant, also from NIDA, for a study using sewers to understand the legalized retail sales effects on marijuana consumption; and a $347,120 award from the National Science Foundation to obtain high-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry instrumentation to support research and training at the University of Puget Sound.