Laboratory for Environmental and Life Sciences

About the laboratory

The Laboratory for Environmental and Life Sciences (LELS) enables intensive collaboration of environmental and analytical chemists, biochemists, molecular biologists, eco-toxicologists and ecologists. Investigations conducted at LELS include development of novel and unique ultrasensitive laser-based analytical methods, study of the fate, transport and transformations of pollutants in atmosphere, terrestrial and aquatic environments, food quality and safety, biomedical diagnostic tools, as well as identification of recombinant antibodies specific for tumor biomarkers. Cutting edge research at LELS enables new insights into environmental processes at the level of molecules, cells, organisms and ecosystems, their interactions and interrelation with life processes in organisms and human body, including cellular antioxidant activity, antimicrobial activities, biological processes regulating the virus trafficking, cancer diagnostics and therapy.

Research areas

Basic research

In the area of basic research, the activities of the laboratory are directed to

  • the investigation of photochemical and microbial degradation as well as the transport of pollutants in the environment,
  • the development of laser-based methods, bioanalytical methods, and ecotoxicological tests for the identification and determination of toxic compounds and their effects on the environment,
  • the development of new materials for their application in environmentally friendly technologies,
  • the investigation in molecular biology and neurobiology.

Among the research achievements of great importance, one must mention the newly developed highly sensitive analytical methods based on laser photothermal techniques such as thermal lens spectrometry (TLS), which are combined with bioanalytical techniques (acetylcholinesterase, transglutaminase and immunological ELISA biosensors), flow injection analysis (FIA) and liquid chromatography.

In the field of ecotoxicology, the toxicity of pesticides and other chemicals is investigated towards terrestrial invertebrates (Isopoda) as well as the possibilities for the application of such organisms as indicators of environmental pollution. In addition, changes in the concentrations and transformations of pesticides and other pollutants are examined in the laboratory as well as in natural environment during a field experiment. Part of the laboratory activities represents also investigations in the synthesis of photocatalytically active thin films and powders, which are used for the degradation of various organic pollutants in water and air as well as for self-cleaning and antibacterial purposes. Our laboratory is equipped with photoreactors of different sizes for liquid and gaseous photocatalysis, in which the synthesized materials are evaluated with respect to their efficiency in water and air treatment.

Research in the field of molecular biology proceeds mainly in two directions, the first one represents investigations of the role of human Papillomaviruses (HPV) in cervical cancer and research on antiviral immune response, while the second one concerns research in neurobiology related for example to the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms able to modulate the operation of membrane channels and receptors pain transducer in basic conditions and after environmental stressors.

Applied research

In the field of applied research we also investigate the possibilities of applying the photothermal and bioanalytical techniques to control the quality and safety of food. In this regard, the newly developed analytical methods are applied as fast screening tests to determine the presence of biogenic amines, which are indicators of poor hygienic conditions or spoilage of food, or for detection of allergens.

Another area of great application potential are self-cleaning surfaces. Recent efforts have been especially devoted to producing a stable colloidal solution for deposition of transparent TiO2-SiO2 thin films on glass or other inorganic substrates.

Preparation of superhydrophobic coatings for self-cleaning and anti-icing purposes is also under intense research.

In the frame of socio-environmental research, nature protection is studied as a social and political process. Research is conducted on several thematic areas, such as waste management, exploring ecosystems, nature conservancy and environmental impact assessment.

The Laboratory for Environmental Research (Laboratorij za raziskave v okolju, LRO) is an interdisciplinary research unit established in 1995. From its earliest years it is tightly connected with the study programmes at the School of Environmental Sciences, for continuous transfer of research outcomes and expert knowledge to students. The Laboratory has an international reputation based on its quality achievements and its commitment in applying research skills to current environmental issues.

LRO hosts a growing number of national and international research projects. It values collaborative initiatives and joint action on a number of environmental aspects. It hosts various thematic areas that together contribute to the interdisciplinary character of this research unit.