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Imari Walker-Franklin appointed to National Academies Roundtable on Plastics

Committee examines issues associated with national efforts to reduce plastic pollution

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has appointed Imari Walker-Franklin, Ph.D., a research chemist at nonprofit research institute RTI International, to the Roundtable on Plastics.  

“I am excited and honored to be appointed to the Roundtable on Plastics," said Dr. Walker-Franklin. "This is an incredible opportunity to make a real difference in tackling one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. The scientific research surrounding the impacts of plastic pollution is growing and collaboration with all stakeholders will be important to addressing this issue."

The roundtable will cover all aspects of the plastics lifecycle and examine potential interventions in plastic production and waste management, environmental and health impacts, and data collection, management and modeling. The goal is to explore and advance systemic solutions and interventions across each stage of the life cycle, address the complexity and diversity of issues in reducing plastic waste and advance the development of innovative solutions to achieve a future with significant reduction in plastic pollution in the environment.  

In her role at RTI, Dr. Walker-Franklin contributes to research aimed at assessing human and environmental exposure to potentially harmful anthropogenic chemicals using high-resolution mass spectrometry coupled to non-targeted analysis workflows. One key project of her research investigates the release and impact of microplastics and microplastic-associated chemicals within the environment and human body. In 2023, she published her first book, Plastics.  

She believes that ongoing research, engineering, and policy efforts will have positive results in the next several years. These efforts include designing more sustainable and reusable materials and the United Nations treaty addressing plastic pollution, which is expected to be drafted this year.  

Dr. Walker-Franklin earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Duke University, where she studied the chemicals released from plastic and their effects within aquatic environments. She also serves as mentor for undergraduates through the NCCU-RTI Center for Applied Research in Environmental Sciences (CARES) lab.  

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