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Lena Ma is an expert on the biogeochemistry of trace metals who recently discovered a fern that absorbs arsenic from contaminated soil.

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Lena Ma

Lena Ma

Professor of Soil and Water Science
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Lena Ma, a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is an expert on the biogeochemistry of trace metals who recently discovered a fern that absorbs arsenic from contaminated soil.

Her research on the first plant ever found to “hyper-accumulate” arsenic — a carcinogenic heavy metal often used as a pesticide — may prove useful in cleaning up thousands of sites contaminated by arsenic from industrial, mining, agricultural or other operations around the world. The work is a prime example of how research can have a practical application on a global scale, helping many people who are at risk from contaminated land or water.

The research findings, published in scientific journal Nature, received the 2001 Discovery Award from the Royal Geographic Society and Discovery Networks Europe.

Ma, who joined the UF faculty in 1994, received her bachelor’s degree in 1985 from Shenyang Agricultural University in the Peoples Republic of China. She completed her master’s degree in 1988 and doctorate in 1991 at Colorado State University.

Photo credit: Kristen Bartlett Grace — University Photography

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