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Peter H. Santschi

Regents Professor
Department of Marine Sciences

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted".

-Albert Einstein, 1879 - 1955

Get To Know Peter H. Santschi

What in your life drew you to your current field of study?

Thanks to having had good teachers in high school (gymnasium), they got me interested in the Natural Sciences. I strongly felt that Nature had laws that were more worthy of study than human laws. That led me on a path with multiple zig-zags. When it was time to decide what field to study in the University of Bern in Switzerland, I veered from astronomy to physics to chemistry. In 1970, when it was the time to decide on a topic for a PhD thesis in chemistry, my top choices were blood chemistry and aquatic chemistry. I then opted for Aquatic Chemistry, as I felt that at that time one could do more pioneering work in that field. When I applied for a postdoc position in the USA, I had 3 offers, including from one from WHOI, but decided to work with Wally Broecker in Geochemistry at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) of Columbia University to carry out environmental research in geochemistry and environmental radiochemistry. After 6 years doing research in the USA, I spent 6 years as a section head in Isotope Geochemistry/Radiology at EAWAG (Swiss Institute of Water Research) and lecturer (Privatdozent) in geochemistry at ETH (Swiss Institute of Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland. This allowed me to learn more about other disciplines in environmental science, and this knowledge allowed me then to get a head start in my research ventures when moving again across the Atlantic to obtain continued research funding from federal agencies since 1988 at TAMUG. Since moving here, I again had to reinvent, refocus, and retool myself, and my current research now evolves around the question of what organic carriers are moving radiochemicals and other pollutants through environmental systems, which requires us to combine environmental radiochemistry and geobiology with environmental organic chemistry approaches and techniques.


What do you hope your students gain from studying or working with you?

I expect that the students working with me learn to think critically. That requires them to be able to connect with and apply principles from basic science to a variety of analytical and theoretical fields such as environmental and marine chemistry, radiochemistry, and biochemistry, which they are learning from me. This will allow them to become independently thinking scientists that can take advantage of new opportunities as they come along. For example, while quite a number of my graduate students became professors, teachers and researchers themselves, many work for industry, national laboratories or agencies, or are heading large environmental organizations.

What are you passionate about in your personal life?

With my 75 years on this earth, I am still trying to stay active both physically and mentally, exercising to recover from a septic hip operation in Nov. 2016. My daily Taichi and Qigong exercises that I continue to practice and learned from a grandmaster here in Galveston help me a great deal in this recovery by harmonizing body, breath and mind. In addition, daily practice of meditation and Eastern Philosophies (e.g., Taoism, Buddhism, etc.) helps to keep me centered in the NOW.

I lead a relatively large group of researchers at TAMUG which is one of the best group of people that I ever worked with. Just like the ecological teamwork of autopoietic systems, successful research in environmental systems requires not only self-replication, i.e., new students that practice the science, but also synergistic teamwork. Thus, much of what I accomplish now is really carried out by members of a closely interacting team of researchers. These researchers share my passion to learn more about the blue print of nature as it applies to how chemical systems within ecosystems adjust to multiple stressors in the environment in order to apply this to the study of fate and effects of human produced chemicals and radiochemicals in the environment.

Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Berne, Switzerland, 1975
M.S. Chemistry, University of Berne, Switzerland, 1971
B.S. Science and Economics, Gymnasium Berne, Switzerland, Matura 1963
Courses Taught

Texas A&M University at Galveston Undergraduate Courses:

CHEM 383: Environmental Chemistry
CHEM 464:
Nuclear Chemistry
MARS 340:
MARS 430:
Geological Oceanography
MARS 440:
Chemical Oceanography
MARS 481: Seminar in Marine Science
MARS 491: Research, Environmental Geology


Texas A&M University, Department of Oceanography Graduate Courses:

OCNG 644: Isotope Geochemistry
OCNG 681: Seminar in Oceanography/Marine Science
OCNG 646: Dynamics of Environmental Colloids


Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland:

Geochemical Oceanography
Radioactivity in the Environment
Environmental Colloids


AMCE, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, HKUST:

Marine Organic Chemistry
Marine Colloids Chemistry
Marine Radiochemistry
Marine Biogeochemistry


Santschi, P.H., Xu, C., Zhang, S., Schwehr, Lin, P., K.A., Yeager, C.M., and Kaplan, D.I. 2017. Recent advances in the detection of specific natural organic compounds as carriers for radionuclides in soil and water environments, with examples of radioiodine and plutonium. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 171, 226-233.

DiDonato, N., Xu, C., Santschi, P.H., and Hatcher, P.G. 2017. A new perspective on structural components of Pu-mobilizing organic colloids from a contaminated soil. ES&T, 51, 4803−4811; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b04955.

Santschi, P.H., Yeager, K.M., Schwehr, K.A., Schindler, K. 2017.Estimates of recovery of the Penobscot River Estuarine System from mercury contamination in the 1960’s. STOTEN, 596–597, 351–359;

Athon, M.T., Santschi, P.H., Fryxell, G.E., Chuang, C.-Y. 2017. Sorption of selected radionuclides (e.g. 7Be, 57Co, 106Ru, 125Sb, 133Ba, 137Cs, 210Pb, 210Po, 233Pa, and 234Th) on different MnO2 phases. Environmental Chemistry, 14, 207-214.

Sun, L., Xu, C., Chin, W.C., Zhang, S., Lin, P., Schwehr, K.A., Quigg, A., Chiu, M.-H., Chin, W.-C., Santschi, P.H. 2017. Light-induced aggregation of microbial exopolymeric substances. Chemosphere 181, 675-681, doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.04.099.

Chiu, M.-H., Garcia, S.G., Hwang, B., Claiche, D., Sanchez, G., Aldayafleh, R., Tsai, S.-M., Santschi, P.H., Quigg, A., Chin, W.-C. 2017. Corexit, Oil and Marine Microgels. Marine Pollution Bulletin 122, 376-378.

Grandbois, R., Yeager C.M., Tani, Y., Xu, C., Zhang, S., Beaver, M., Schwehr, K.A., Kaplan, D.I., and Santschi, P.H., 2017. Biogenic manganese oxides facilitate iodine oxidation at low pH. Geomicrobiology, in press.

Zhao, Y., Wang, Y., Santschi, P.H., and Quigg, A. 2017. Response of the antioxidant defense system of two microalgal species (Alexandrium minutum and Dunaliella salina) to the toxicity of BDE-47. Mar. Poll. Bulletin, 124, 459-469.

Lin, P., Xu, C., Zhang, S., Sun, L., Schwehr, K.A., Bretherton, L., Quigg, A., Peter H. Santschi, P.H. 2017. Partitioning of natural radionuclide analogues for particle cycling in the ocean (234Th, 233Pa, 210Pb, 210Po and 7Be) with biopolymers associated with coccolithophores: a case study with Emiliania huxleyi. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 122, 2033–2045.

Yeager, C.M., Amachi, S., Grandbois, R., Kaplan, D.I., Xu, C., Schwehr, K.A., and Santschi, P.H. 2017. Microbial transformation of iodine: From radioisotopes to iodine deficiency. Advances in Applied Microbiology, 101, 83-136.

Lin, P., Xu, C., Zhang, S., Fujitake, N., Kaplan, D.I., Yeager, C.M., Sugiyama, Y., Schwehr, K.A., Santschi, P.H. 2017. Evidence for carboxyl-associated and nitrogen-containing organic compounds regulating the remobilization of plutonium in natural soils. Env. Sci. Technol., in press.

Hatcher, P.G., Obeid, W., Wozniak, A.S., Xu, C., Zhang, S., Santschi, P.H., Quigg, A. 2018. Identifying oil/marine snow associations in mesocosm simulations of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill event using solid-state 13C NMR spectroscopy. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 126, 159-165.

Yeager, K.M., Schwehr, K.A., Louchouarn, P., Schindler, K., and Santschi, P.H. 2018. Hg inputs and redistribution in the Penobscot estuary. STOTEN, 622–623,172–183.

Chiu, M.-H., Khan, Z., Garcia, S.G., Le, A., Kagiri, A., Ramos, J., Tsai, S.-M., Drobenaire, H., Santschi, P.H., Quigg, A., Chin, W.-C. 2017. Effect of Engineered Nanoparticles on Exopolymeric Substances Release from Marine Phytoplankton. Nanoscale Research Letters, 12:620, DOI 10.1186/s11671-017-2397-x.

Al Mukaimi, M.E., Williams, J.R., Dellapenna, T.M., Louchouarn, P., Kaiser, K., Santschi, P.H. 2017.. Centennial record of anthropogenic impacts in Galveston Bay: Evidence from trace metals and biomarkers. Environmental Pollution, accepted.


2012: Invited Presentation “Biopolymers as carriers of radionuclides in marine aggregates" at the International Workshop on Marine Aggregates (IWOMA) - From Molecular principles to Biogeochemical Impacts (August 15-17, 2012), in Bremen, Germany.

2013: Presentation at the International Goldschmidt 2013 Conference (August 25-30, 2013) in Florence, Italy.

2014: Invited Presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting (February 23-28) in Honolulu, HI.

2014: Invited Presentation at the International Goldschmidt 2014 Conference (June 8-13, 2014) in Sacramento, CA.

2014: Invited Presentation at the International Plutonium Futures Conference (September 7-12) in Las Vegas Nevada.

2015: Invited Keynote Speaker at The International Conference on Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Ecotoxicology and Engineering, ContaSed

2015: 8–13 March 2015, Congressi Stefano Franscini in Monte Verità, Switzerland, organized by the Swiss Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich.

2016: Invited Keynote Speaker at the International Goldschmidt Conference in Yokohama, Japan, June 26 - July 1, 2016, in the Session "Biological Transformation and Fate of Natural and Anthropogenic Radionuclides in the Environments”.

2016: Presenter and Member of Scientific Committee of ICRM-LLRMT (International Committee for Radionuclide Metrology – Low Level Radioactivity Measurements Techniques) conference, Seattle (WA, USA) September 26-30, 2016.

2016: Organizer of special ACS Symposium on “Chemical and Biological Processes Regulating Transport of Pollutants in the Gulf of Mexico and Its Estuaries” at the 72nd Annual Southwest Regional Meeting (SWRM), Galveston, TX, November 10-13, 2016.

2017: Session Co-Organizer, Co-Chair and presenter at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference 2017, New Orleans, LA. February 6-9, 2017.

Grants and Fellowships

National Science Foundation – Chemical Oceanography, “Biopolymers produced by diatoms and coccolithophores as carriers for selected natural radionuclides (of Th, Pa, Pb, Po, Be) in the ocean”, Peter H. Santschi, PI, Quigg, A., Schwehr, K.A., and Xu, C., co-PIs, Feb. 1, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2018 ($506,849).

DOE, Office of Science, SBR, “Collaborative Research: The Importance of Organo-Iodine and Iodate In Iodine-127,129 Speciation, Mobility and Microbial Activity in Groundwater at DOE Sites”,  Santschi, P.H., PI, 2014-2015 ($60,000 supplement to TAMUG).

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), “Role of microbial exopolymers in aggregation and degradation of oil and dispersants”, Santschi, P.H. (Deputy Director and PI), with Quigg, A. (Consortium Director), and Knapp, T., Wade, T.L., Chin, W.-C., Passow, U., Hatcher, P.G., Silvan, J., and Finkel, Z. (co-PIs), Jan. 1, 2015 – Dec. 31, 2017 ($7,245,432 total, $3,209,495 to TAMUG).

DOE, Office of Science, SBR, “Collaborative Research: Natural Organic Matter and Microbial Controls on Mobilization/Immobilization of I and Pu in soils in USA and Japan”, Santschi, P.H. PI,  Xu, C., Schwehr, K.A., and Zhang, S., Kaplan, D.I., and Yeager, C.M., co-PIs, Aug. 1, 2015-July 31, 2018 ($600,000 total, $300,000 to TAMUG).

DOE, PNNL, “Post Detonation Maritime Collection and Analysis paper study”, subcontract from PNNL, Santschi, P.H., PI, 2016 ($20,000 to TAMUG), March 28, 2016 through September 30, 2016.

DOE, NEUP, Office of Nuclear Energy “Using Radioiodine Speciation to Address Environmental Remediation and Waste Stream Sequestration Problems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and a DOE Site”, Santschi, P.H., PI ($420,000 to TAMUG), Oct.1, 2016-Sept. 30, 2019.

DOE, LDRD, “Silver-iodine Secondary Waste Stabilization: Multiscale Evaluation”, Santschi, P.H., PI ($40,000 to TAMUG, subcontract from SRNL), January 1, 2017 - September 30, 2017.

DOE, subcontract from SRNS, “Radioiodine Speciation on G-SOW-A-01859 Waste Form Stabilization (SRNS RFP No.0000318991)”, Santschi, P.H., PI, ($40,000 to TAMUG), 2017-2018 ($40,000 to TAMUG, subcontract from SRNL).

Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc., fixed price contract for court-mandated study, “Radiochemical Analyses of sediments from the Penobscot River”,

Santschi, P.H., PI, ($177,600 to TAMUG), Sept. 30-Dec. 31, 2017.

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), “ADDOMEx 2: Towards a synthesis of processes and pathways of marine oil snow formation”, Santschi, P.H. (Deputy Director and PI), with Quigg, A. (Consortium Director), and Knapp, T., Wade, T.L., Chin, W.-C., Passow, U., Hatcher, P.G., Silvan, J., and Finkel, Z. (co-PIs), Jan. 1, 2018 – Dec. 31, 2019 ($2.54 Million total).

DOE, LDRD, “Silver-iodine Secondary Waste Stabilization: Multiscale Evaluation”, Santschi, P.H., PI ($40,000 to TAMUG, subcontract from SRNL), January 1, 2018 - September 30, 2018.

Awards & Recognition

2017: Elected Geochemical Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry.

2014: Elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

2013: Environmental Science and Technology Outstanding Reviewer Recognition (2013).

2013: Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Awards in Graduate Student Mentoring from Texas A&M University.

2009: Regents Professor of Texas A&M University.

2004: Association of Former Students Distinguished University Level Achievement Award for Research from Texas A&M University.2004. Limnology and Oceanography Outstanding Reviewer Recognition.

Professional Appointments
1988 - present: Professor of Oceanography and of Marine Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Visiting Professor at University of Rhode Island (1987), University of Geneva, Switzerland (1996-1997, 2003), University of Bern, Switzerland (2002), Swiss Institute of Technology, ETH (2003), and National Taiwan University, Taipei (2003), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2004).

1990 - 1996: Section Head, Chemical Oceanography, Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

1992-2000: Focal Area Coordinator of Center for Shelf and Coastal Oceanography, Texas Institute of Oceanography.

1989-present: Director, Laboratory for Oceanographic and Environmental Research (LOER).

1988 - present: Senior Chemist, Texas A&M University, Galveston, TX.

1983 - 1988: Head of Isotope Geochemistry and Radiology Section of Swiss Institute for Water Resources and Water Pollution Control, EAWAG, Dübendorf, Switzerland.

1983 - present: Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University.

July 1, 1981 - July, 1982: Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University.

July 1, 1977 - June 30, 1981: Research Associate, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University.

1970 - 1975: Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Berne, Switzerland.

1968-1970: Lecturer in Chemistry, Humboltianum Gymnasium (High School).
Current Graduate Students
Russell Grandbois, Ph.D. Student, MARB-IDP, Texas A&M University (2018 graduation).
Kathleen A. Schwehr, Research Scientist
Chen Xu, Associate Research Scientist
Peng Lin, Asstistant Research Scientist
Luni Sun, Asstistant Research Scientist
Wei Xing, Research Assistant

Contact Info

Peter H. Santschi
Regents Professor
Department of Marine Sciences
Phone: +1 (409) 744-0964
Fax: +1 (409) 740-4429

Ocean and Coastal Studies Bldg., Office 395