Kang Xia


Ph.D., Soil Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997

M.S., Soil Chemistry, Louisiana State University, 1993

B.S., Soil Chemistry, Beijing Agricultural University, 1989


2016 - Present - Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

2011 - 2016 - Associate Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

2010 - 2011 - Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Mississippi State University

2006 - 2011 - Director for Research Division and Industrial and Agricultural Services Division, Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory

2006 - 2010 - Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Mississippi State University

2002 - 2005 - Assistant Professor, University of Georgia

1998 - 2001 - Assistant Professor, Kansas State University

1997 - 1998 - Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Link to curriculum vita

Courses Taught

  • ENSC/CSES 4314 - Water Quality

Before arriving at Virginia Tech, I taught several undergraduate courses, including General Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Soil and Water Chemistry, and Contaminants in Soils. At the graduate level, I have taught Chromatography and Chemical Separation, Soil and Plant Analysis, and Soil Organic Chemistry.

Program Focus

  • Occurrence, fate, and ecological impact of anthropogenic organic chemicals in soil and water, with special focus on emerging contaminants associated with biosolids, wastewater, and animal wastes
  • Biogeochemistry of carbon and nitrogen, and phosphorus
  • Development of novel analytical methods for emerging contaminants in environmental samples

Current Research

  • Environmental transformation pathways of emerging contaminants in biosolids and biosolids-impacted environment; Development of molecular imprint polymers for detection of trace level emerging contaminants in complex environmental matrixes;
  • Mineral surface catalyzed oxidative polymerization of organic contaminants by combining laboratory experimental approaches with computational chemistry; Occurrence and fate of hormones and their conjugates in animal waste and the environment;
  • Investigation of interactions between soil minerals and amino acids and small peptides using Phase Display technology coupled with synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

Role of Graduate Students

I strongly believe the ultimate goal of graduate student training is to provide them with opportunities to gain important research, communication, and written skills that are essential for their chosen future career path. I see my duties as a mentor for both undergraduate and graduate students are:

  • to encourage students to become active learners and scholars
  • to help students develop professionally, stretch and grow intellectually, set high standards, and establish self-confidence and discipline;
  • to link students with important development and career opportunities, such as independent research projects, internship or job possibilities, publication and presentation opportunities

The graduate students in my research program have the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary research projects using the state of art analytical instruments such as high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometer (LC/MS/MS), gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometer (GC/MS/MS), various surface imaging instruments, and synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

Future Research

During the last several decades, the fate and impact of chemical pollution has focused almost exclusively on the conventional “priority” pollutants such as pesticides and industrial chemicals displaying persistence in the environment. Only recently another diverse group of bioactive chemicals such as pharmaceutical compounds and personal care products (PPCPs) began to receive increasing attention due to the frequent detection of these compounds in the environment and their potential negative impact on aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Because of their close association with human activities and concentrated animal productions, this class of compounds and their bioactive metabolites are closely associated with wastewater, biosolids, and animal waste. Future research opportunities related to this subject area are: 1) development of cost effective and sensitive analytical methods for detection of PPCPs in complex environmental matrixes; 2) development of effective treatment techniques to reduce PPCPs at the sources; and 3) understanding the fate of PPCPs in wastewater, biosolids or animal waste amended soils.

Our lack of understanding of the micro-scale processes/mechanisms of interactions between soil minerals and natural organic matter hinders our ability to predict C and N flux between different soil compartments at ecosystem-scale. To address this issue, an interdisciplinary approach that combines a broad array of novel molecular, biological, and synchrotron-based spectroscopic techniques is needed to investigate the interaction mechanisms between soil minerals and organic matter.

Kang Xia
  • (540) 231-9323
  • kxia@vt.edu
  • RB1880
    Suite 1129, Room 120B
    Blacksburg, Virginia