Ruth Sofield

Professor; Chair of Environmental Sciences Department


As a teacher and a mentor, I try to make opportunities available to the students I work with. In some cases this is as simple as advising them of an AWMA club activity or a summer research program they can apply for and making sure I spend enough time understanding their strengths and goals before writing reference letters for them. In other cases, I help guide and support independent research for undergraduate students. The projects may be the student’s idea or they conduct research that supports my work or graduate students’ work. I try to connect students with professionals by encouraging presentations at conferences and the WWU poster fair, attendance at career panels, becoming members of professional organizations, and dinners with on-campus visitors. Most recently, I managed a large project working with The Port of Anacortes, the Department of Ecology, and GeoEngineers where undergraduate students designed and conducted research on a clean-up site in Anacortes, WA. The students worked closely with me, each other, and our collaborators to implement the research. To date, the final products include six Senior Project reports and five presentations at a National conference. My graduate students get the same encouragement and support for pursuing opportunities. In the end, I believe this is the way to discover where true interests lay, to find who colleagues are, and to advance in chosen professional fields.

Research Interests

I am most interested in research at the intersection of environmental chemistry and toxicology. My educational background has led me here with degrees and research experiences in biology, environmental science, toxicology, and environmental chemistry. My students and I use both laboratory and field work in our research; the laboratory studies let us answer specific questions in a controlled setting, while the field work is where the application of that work occurs. The majority of our work has focused on the impacts of aquatic chemistry on metal toxicity in aquatic environments. We have also done work on PAHs in groundwater and black liquor in pulp and paper mill effluent. Collaborations have included scientists from the government, private, and university sectors. I recently (Sept. 2011) returned from Eawag in Switzerland where I investigated the impacts of NOM on Ag Nanoparticle chemistry and algal toxicity.

Teaching Schedule

ESCI 455/555: TR 10:00-11:50