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Meet EPA Chemist Quincy Teng, Ph.D.

EPA Chemist Quincy Teng, Ph.D.

EPA research chemist Quincy Teng, Ph.D., focuses on the application of metabolomics, a specialized field of biochemistry focused on studying endogenous metabolites, on environmental and life sciences. He has more than 30 years of experience in biological nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy applied to structure biology, small molecules, and metabolomics.

Dr. Teng is the author of a textbook titled "Structural Biology: Practical NMR Applications" and is the author or coauthor of more than 90 peer-reviewed research papers. Prior to his current position at EPA, he was the director of the Chemical Sciences Magnetic Resonance Facility at the University of Georgia (1994 to 2006).

How does your science matter?

My research focuses on the application of metabolomics to assess the exposure and impacts of stressors such as chemical pollutants on fish species. We are developing and applying cell-based metabolomics to assess the impacts of chemical exposure of the surface waters to biological processes. Watersheds/tributaries representing a variety of land uses across the United States are being collected and studied. Dominant biological effects of concern at the sites are determined by utilizing cell-based metabolomic measurements alone with other untargeted, discovery-based tools (e.g. Transcriptomics, high throughput ToxCast assays). We look at how exposure to chemicals can affect specific biological processes and if these exposures have negative impacts on the fish.

The research helps to protect sensitive organisms in our ecosystems. If a chemical exposure occurs, we can estimate the concentration and duration of the exposure and if it is harmful to our environment.

Dr. Teng in the lab.

If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would you choose and what would you ask them?

I would choose Paul Dirac. He was an English physicist who made huge contributions to the field of quantum mechanics. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics at the age of 31 and is one of the youngest to ever do so.

I would ask him if he had any thoughts on simple ways to interpret biological data. Even though he wasn’t a biologist, I think he would have an interesting perspective.

Tell us about your background.

I received both my Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from Jilin University, which is located in my hometown in the northeast part of China. I received my Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Florida State University. I did my postdoctoral training at Cornell University Medical College in New York City and UC-Davis in California.

Dr. Teng in the lab.

How did you get to EPA?

I was always interested in applying my knowledge to solve real-world problems. EPA had an opening in the ORD laboratory in Athens, Georgia, where I was already living while working at the University of Georgia. I applied and got this position which I really enjoy.

When did you first know that you wanted to pursue science as a career?

I decided I wanted to be a scientist while I was in college. I really enjoyed the university atmosphere and thought doing research at a university would be a great way to continue to benefit from it.

What do you like most about your research?

I have worked in a lot of different places that have great scientists doing great science. What I like most about EPA is the teamwork and the potential impact of our research. At EPA, I work with many talented and dedicated scientists with different areas of expertise and whenever I have a problem, I know I can always find a colleague to help me.

If you were not a scientist, what would you be doing?

I think I would be a computer programmer. I started learning about computer programming in college and really enjoyed it.  I wrote several programs for my PhD research.

Any advice for students considering a career in science?

To be a scientist, I think you really should enjoy discovering new things. Doing good research requires you to be passionate and hard-working. Sometimes research can be extremely hard, but it is always interesting. I think students should get experience in a research lab working on a project. There are many opportunities out there if you are interested.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the researcher alone. EPA does not endorse the opinions or positions expressed.