Innovator Profile

Thomas Borch, PhD

Professor, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Primary College

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Innovator Bio

The Borch lab is focused on topics such as water treatment and reuse for agricultural irrigation, forest fire impacts on surface water quality, permafrost thawing effects on carbon and nutrient cycling, and soil/water quality impacts on crop health. Joint appointments in the Departments of Soil and Crop Sciences (home dept.), Civil and Environmental Engineering (joint), and Chemistry (joint) makes our group highly interdisciplinary, allowing us to pursue complex agricultural, environmental, and industrial projects. My lab uses a multitude of traditional analytical methods in combination with various chromatographic (e.g. GC, HPLC and IC), spectroscopic (e.g. FTIR, XPS), and microscopic (e.g. SEM, TEM and AFM) methods, including state-of-the-art techniques such as synchrotron radiation-based X-ray techniques and Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS), to elucidate (bio)degradation products, chemical states of trace elements, structural states of minerals, plant uptake of contaminants, and the fate of water contaminants in environmental and agricultural settings.

“I have passion for improving human health by providing innovative solutions for agriculture and polluted environments. My creativity is, in particular, stimulated by conversations with my agricultural and industrial partners since they know “the real-world problems” and provide an important perspective that helps me identify solutions. I question everything and expect my students to challenge me every day – I aspire to create an environment for my staff and students in which nobody is afraid to ask questions. My research is interdisciplinary, and we often tackle big agricultural or environmental problems by taking a systems approach. In short, I innovate to help solve real-world problems such as water and food scarcity.”