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Dr. Gina McKee

Contact Info

Office phone: 971-491-5788

Fax:  970-491-0564

Email: gina.mckee at

Room number/Building: C108 Plant Sciences Building


I am originally from England, growing up in Grantham, Lincolnshire. After finishing my A levels at Kesteven and Grantham Girls School, I started my undergraduate masters in Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, U.K. In my third year, I took part in the study abroad program, and spent a year at the University of New Mexico, USA. During this time I completed research regarding cobalt complexes with Dr David Tierney.

In my fourth year I returned to Sheffield to complete my Masters. I worked with Professor Christopher Hunter, examining hydrogen bonding strengths using nuclear magnetic resonance spectrscopy. After completing my undergraduate Masters (MChem) in Chemistry in 2006, I moved to New Mexico to continue my research project with Dr Tierney.

In January 2007 I moved to Virginia to join the Old Dominion University Chemistry department as a PhD candidate. Working with Professor Patrick Hatcher, I sucessfully completed my PhD in August 2011. My dissertation title is: The Nature, Origin and Preservation of Amide Organic Nitrogen in Organic Matter. My PhD research involved using advanced analytical techniques such as Electrospray Ionisation Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry and 1D/2D NMR to investigate organic rich sediments organic nitrogen character. In addition, I investigated the degradation and preservation of peptides in natural waters.

In September 2011, I moved to Colorado to begin my postdoctoral research with Dr Thomas Borch at Colorado State University. I am currently involved in several research projects and these are described.

Project Summary

Characterisation of natural organic matter in wetlands in Fraser Experimental Forest, CO

Wetlands constituent about 33 % of soil organic matter globally. This important pool of organic matter, therefore, contributes to global cycling of major nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. It is vital that we have a thorough understanding of the character of wetland natural organic matter, in order to predict its role in global nutrient cycling. In order to achieve this I examine in-depth natural organic matter obtained from the soils from six example forest wetlands of two types, slope and depressional. The detailed examination of natural organic matter in this project will utilise some advanced analytical techniques. These include Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectromtery (FT-ICR-MS) and 1Dsolids nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. With these techniques I will be able to obtain molecular level detail regarding the natural organic matter in these wetland environments.


Investigation of natural organic matter in Denver drinking water treatments

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) released from subalpine forests enters headwaters, sourcing drinking water for the Denver area. DOM is a major precursor for the production of toxic disinfection byproducts (DBP’s) during drinking water treatment. The DOM precursor molecular identity is poorly understood; limiting the ability of Denver drinking water plants to effectively remove them and will be further compounded if DOM identity alters due to a changing climate. The increasing dissolved DOM quantity worldwide and the concerns in Colorado about how this may impact DBP production and water treatment further justifies the need for the proposed research. In addition, the recent advancement of the pine beetle infestation in these subalpine forests; is having dramatic effects on the vegetation, with a knock-on effect on the NOM that is present in the soils, adding a new dynamic change with large uncertainties’ in future vegetation dominance and its effect on NOM quantity and quality.

We will be conduting model experiments in the laboratory to identify using FT-ICR-MS and NMR the DOM precursors that are present in the Denver headwaters of the Fraser Experiment Forest. This project will greatly assist Denver treatment plants ability to identify and remove these toxic DBPs from the raw water entering their treatment plants.

For more information about the research that is being conducted in the Borch group please click here.

Recent Publications

Georgina A. McKee, Megan E. Kobiela, and Patrick G. Hatcher, 2014, Effect of Michael adduction on peptide preservation in natural waters, Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, 16, 2087-2097 (featured as issue cover).

Junyan Zhong, Rachel L. Sleighter, Elodie Salmon, Georgina A. McKee, and Patrick G. Hatcher, 2011, Combining advanced NMR techniques with ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry: a new strategy for molecular-scale characterization of macromolecular components of soil and sedimentary organic matter, Org. Geochem., 42, 903-916.

Georgina A. McKee and Patrick G. Hatcher, 2010, Alkyl amides in two organic-rich anoxic sediments: A possible new biotic route for N sequestration. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 74, 6436-6450.

Zhanfei Liu, Megan E. Kobiela, Georgina A. McKee, Cindy Lee, Margaret R. Mulholland, Patrick G. Hatcher, 2010, The effect of Chemical Structure on  the Hydrolysis of Tetrapeptides in Seawater: AVFA and SWGA, Mar. Chem., 119 , 108-120.

Rachel L. Sleighter, Georgina A. McKee, and Patrick G. Hatcher, 2009, Direct Fourier transform mass spectral analysis of natural waters with low dissolved organic matter,  Org. Geochem., 40 , 119-125.

Rachel L. Sleighter, Georgina A. McKee, Zhanfei Liu and Patrick G. Hatcher, 2008, Naturally Present Fatty Acids as Internal Calibrants for Fourier Transform Mass Spectra of Dissolved Organic Matter, , Limnol. Oceanogr.: Methods, 6, 246-253.

Newspaper article

CSU scientists studying climate change impact on Front Range drinking water. Today @ Colorado State, 6 Dec 2012.


For publications recently published in the Borch group click here.


USDA FS Fraser Experimental Forest

Chuck Rhoades, USDA FS

Sarah Burton, Environmental Science Molecular Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Fernando Rosario-Ortiz, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Previous Institutions

Ph.D group: Dr. Patrick Hatcher’s group, Old Dominion University, VA

3rd year of undergraduate masters: Dr. David Tierney’s group (now at Miami University), University of New Mexico, NM

Undergraduate masters group: Dr. Christopher Hunter, University of Sheffield, UK

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