College of Engineering & Mines

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UND Civil Engineer Feng Xiao receives Early Career Award to address key health-pollution issue

University researcher one of only three in nation picked to analyze everyday household and industrial chemicals’ impacts on human body.

UND Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Feng “Frank” Xiao has been named one of only three researchers in the country to receive a highly competitive Early Career Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) STAR program to address a key national health-pollution issue.

The award is for approximately $500,000 over three years.

The EPA, as part of its Science to Achieve Results, or STAR program, sought proposals to analyze and treat a class of contaminants called PFAS in the waste stream. PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of human-made chemicals that have been used for decades in many products including nonstick cookware, fast-food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam.

Most people have been exposed to PFAS, and some of the compounds can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. Moreover, there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans, the EPA reports.

The EPA received 32 applications from around the country for its Early Career research grants on this topic. Three grants were awarded, including Xiao’s.

“It is a great honor,” Xiao said about the news. “I feel thrilled that the EPA liked my proposal and scientific value and practical importance of my idea.”

“I also feel grateful for all the help and support that I have received from my department, college and the university as a whole, especially the faculty early career award and pilot postdoctoral award from the Office of Vice President for Research & Economic Development,” he said.

Xiao joined the UND’s Civil Engineering Department in 2015. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harbin Institute of Technology in China and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota, all in Civil/Environmental Engineering. This is his second federal award in this year.

More information about his research group can be found on this website: