Cynthia Jacobson ’26


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Title

Molecular Simulation of Natural Organic Matter and Organic Contaminants

Certificate(s): Sustainable Energy, Theater and Music Theater

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are large, complex chemicals that have been used for decades in consumer and industrial products due to their heat resistance and water-proofing capabilities. All PFAS contain a fluorinated alkyl chain, whose strong carbon-fluorine bonds allow them to be highly resistant to degradation. Due to their widespread use and long-lasting nature, these contaminants have accumulated in groundwater, soil and air. As a class of contaminants, PFAS are difficult to mitigate because they encompass thousands of molecules with various structures and behavioral tendencies. I used molecular dynamics simulations to model a set of 34 diverse PFAS contaminants in order to assess their behavioral differences. These contaminants can now be simulated in various environmental systems such as air, water and clay, and biological systems such as lipid membranes and placental walls. Understanding how various subgroups of PFAS interact with these systems will inform future research on the efficacy of water treatment methods and the movement of PFAS in the human body. I look forward to continuing this research through my independent work.

Internship Year


Project Category

Water and the Environment


Interfacial Water Group, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey


Ian Bourg, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute