URI Welcomes Fabian Fischer, PhD, Assistant Professor and STEEP Researcher

“Taking on the critical issue of chemical pollution in modern society, I’m thrilled to start my research group in URI’s inspiring and collaborative environment.”

Beginning September 2023, STEEP postdoctoral researcher Fabian Fischer, PhD will begin a new position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island (URI). Fischer joined STEEP in April 2022 as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Elsie Sunderland, PhD, at the Harvard University John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, within STEEP Project 1: Environmental Fate and Transport. Fischer, truly an interdisciplinary scientist, combines his expertise in environmental chemistry with biochemistry, computer modeling, and public health to study how PFAS are absorbed, secreted, and incorporated into the bodily systems of animals and humans. His goal is to understand how toxins move inside organisms, with a focus on the “fate”, or final destination, of these compounds.

“Fabian has been a wonderful addition to the Sunderland Lab and STEEP….his approach combines novel measurement assays and tools with detailed mechanistic modeling to better understand fundamental processes affecting the transport and accumulation of PFAS in different tissues,”  Sunderland said.

Fischer’s physiologically-based toxicokinetic (PBTK) are computer-based simulations of PFAS movement between organs and tissues; for example, between the gut and liver or blood and kidneys. Being physiologically-based, PBTK are designed from data collected through repeated laboratory experiments with single biomolecules, cells, and tissue samples. Fischer’s models evaluate PFAS movement through mouse tissues, for example, to determine bodily processes for future investigation and experiment, or, PFAS uptake and excretion in fish, to better understand bioaccumulation in economically relevant species. Since joining STEEP, Fischer has authored four manuscripts on the diverse applications of his toxicokinetic models, in preparation for publication, and gave a talk at University of Rhode Island last year.

Fischer is a dedicated and thorough researcher and mentor to student trainees at all levels. Zhiji Hu, a master’s student in the Sunderland Lab, conducted thesis research with Fischer to model perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) bioaccumulation in fish. “I learned tremendous research skills from him, and he gave me a lot of affirmation and encouragement on supporting my academic study and offering guidance for my future career,” Hu said. “The positive feedback I received while working with him, coupled with his research dedication and passion I have witnessed, strongly motivated me to commit myself to the research field.”

Since joining STEEP, Fischer has facilitated partnerships between STEEP researchers at Harvard University, the URI College of Pharmacy, and URI Graduate School of Oceanography. In February 2023, he conducted a workshop on chemical fate modeling as part of a STEEP Trainee meeting, which brought together fourteen postdoctoral and graduate student researchers to network and share transferable skills in their respective fields. Fischer has worked closely with the lab of Angela Slitt, PhD, at the URI College of Pharmacy, studying the effects of PFAS compounds on metabolic abnormalities in rodents. “He has been instrumental in forging strong partnerships between the Sunderland and Slitt Research Labs on STEEP-related PFAS work to better understand the toxicokinetics of these diverse compounds,” Sunderland explained.

Fischer has been researching interactions between environmental toxins and health for more than eight years, earning his Master of Science in Environmental Sciences from the Institute of Soil Science and Conservation at Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany, and PhD from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. Fischer’s dissertation, “Bioavailability of organic micropollutants in cell-based bioassays” was awarded best PhD thesis by the German Chemical Society in 2020. Prior to STEEP, Fischer formed multiple international collaborations with institutions in Japan, Denmark, Germany, and the United States through his various research appointments, and has mentored numerous students in all educational stages and settings.

Personal note: “Taking on the critical issue of chemical pollution in modern society, I’m thrilled to start my research group in URI’s inspiring and collaborative environment. I appreciate the support and opportunities I received from STEEP as a Postdoc, which greatly contributed to my successful application at URI. Continuing as part of the STEEP family, I’m excited about future collaborative projects ahead.”

Honors and Awards:

  • 2021: Royal Society of Chemistry Excellent Presentation Award at the 29th Symposium of Environmental Chemistry (Japan).
  • 2020: Best PhD Thesis Award by the German Chemical Society (GDCh).
  • 2017: ACS Editor’s Choice Award for Outstanding Manuscript for “Modeling exposure in the Tox21 in vitro bioassays”.
  • 2015: Young Scientist Award (YSA) for best poster presentation, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), European annual meeting.

Research Grants Awarded:

  • 2020-2022: Japanese Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) Research Grant.
  • 2018-2019: ECO36 Research Proposal, accepted by the European Chemical Industry Council.



  • Fischer F.C., Ludtke S., Pickhard H., Haque F., Dussancao C., Endo S., Schaider L., Sunderland E. Binding of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to blood proteins: Implications for bioavailability in humans. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Flemming N., Fischer F.C., Leth P.M, Grandjean P. Occurrence of major perfluorinated alkylate substances in human blood and target organs. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Fischer F.C., Kaye E., Ludtke S., Ryu S., Slitt A., Sunderland E. Disentangling the mechanisms driving accumulation and elimination of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAA) using toxicokinetic modeling in knock-out mice. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Baumert B.O., Fischer F.C., Walker D.I., Eckel S.P., Stratakis N., Goodrich J.A., Lin X., Bartell S., Zhao Y., Valvi D., Inge T., Jenkins T., Ryder J., Kohli R., Sisley S., Xanthakos S.,  Fuentes Z.C., Rock S., Merrill M., Nielsen F., Grandjean P., McConnell R., Conti D., Chatzi  Longitudinal changes in plasma concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances following bariatric surgery in adolescents from the Teen-LABS (Longitudinal Assessment of  Bariatric Surgery) Study. Manuscript in preparation
  • Fischer F.C., Baumert B.O., Nielsen F., Grandjean P., Bartell S., Eckel S.P., Valvi D., Inge T., Jenkins T., Ryder J., Kohli R., Sisley S., Xanthakos S., Stratakis N, Rock S., Merrill M., Walker D.I., McConnel R., Conti D., Chatzi L. Liver and Plasma concentrations of Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Adolescents from the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) Study. Submitted.


  • Fischer, F.C., Hiki, K., Nishimori T., Endo S., Watanabe H, Yamamoto H. (2023). Influence of water exchange rates on toxicity and bioaccumulation of hydrophobic organic chemicals in sediment toxicity tests. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2023, 25, 609-620. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/D2EM00462C
  • Nishimori T., Hiki K., Fischer F.C., Endo S., Yamamoto H., Watanabe H. (2022). Comparing 10- and 28-Day Sediment Toxicity and Bioaccumulation of Fluoranthene in Hyalella azteca Using Passive Sampling Techniques. Environ Toxicol Chem, 41: 2679-2687. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.5460
  • Fischer F.C., Hiki K., Endo, S. (2022). Free Versus Bound Concentration: Passive Dosing from Polymer Meshes Elucidates Drivers of Toxicity in Aquatic Tests with Benthic Invertebrates. Environ Toxicol Chem. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.5473
  • Fischer F. C., Hiki K., Soetaert K., Endo S. (2021). Mind the exposure gaps – Modeling chemical transport in sediment toxicity tests. Environmental Science & Technology 55(17), 11885–11893, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c03201
  • Hiki K., Fischer F. C., Nishimori T., Watanabe H., Yamamoto H., Endo S. (2021). “Spaciotemporal distribution of hydrophobic organic contaminants in spiked-sediment toxicity tests: Measuring total and freely dissolved concentrations in pore and overlying water”. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 40(11), 3148-3158.
  • Scholz S., Nichols J., Escher B.I., Ankley G., Altenburger R., Blackwell B., Brack W., Burkhard L., Collette T., Doering J., Ekman D., Fay K., Fischer F. C., Hackermüller J., Hoffman J., Lai C., Leuthold D., Martinovic-Weigelt D., Pollesch N., Reemtsma T., Schroeder A., Schüürmann G., von Bergen M. (2021). “The Eco-Exposome concept: Supporting an Integrated Assessment of Mixtures of Environmental Chemicals”. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 41(1):30-45.
  • Proença S., Escher B. I., Fischer F. C., Fisher C., Grégoire S., Hewitt N. J., Nicol B., Paini A., Kramer N. I. (2021). “Effective exposure of chemicals in in vitro cell systems: A review of chemical distribution models”. Toxicology in Vitro 73, 105133.
  • Escher B. I., Henneberger L., König M., Schlichting R., Fischer F. C. (2020). “Cytotoxicity burst? Differentiating specific from nonspecific effects in Tox21 in vitro reporter gene assays”. Environmental Health Perspectives 128(7).
  • Fischer F. C., Abele C., Henneberger L., Klüver N., König M., Mühlenbrink M., Schlichting R., Escher B. I. (2020). “Cellular metabolism in high-throughput in vitro reporter gene assays and implications for the quantitative in vitroin vivo extrapolation”. Chemical Research in Toxicology 33 (7), 1770–1779.
  • Fischer F. C., Henneberger L., Schlichting R., Escher B. I. (2019). “How to improve the dosing of chemicals in high-throughput in vitro mammalian cell assays”. Chemical Research in Toxicology 32 (8), 1462-1468.
  • Henneberger L., Mühlenbrink M., König M., Schlichting R., Fischer F. C., Escher B. I. (2019). “Quantification of freely dissolved effect concentrations in in vitro cell-based bioassays”. Archives of Toxicology.
  • Henneberger L., Mühlenbrink M., Fischer F. C., Escher B. I. (2019). “C18-coated solid-phase microextraction fibers for the quantification of partitioning of organic acids to proteins, lipids, and cells”. Chemical Research in Toxicology 32 (1), 168-178.
  • Fischer, F. C. (2018). “Bioavailability of organic micropollutants in cell-based bioassays.” PhD Dissertation, Faculty of Science, University Library Tübingen, (https://publikationen.uni-tuebingen.de/xmlui/handle/10900/85095).
  • Fischer F. C., Cirpka O. A., Goss K. U., Henneberger L., Escher B. I. (2018). “Application of experimental polystyrene partition constants and diffusion coefficients to predict the sorption of neutral organic chemicals to multiwell plates in in vivo and in vitro bioassays”. Environmental Science & Technology 52, 13511-13522.
  • Fischer F. C., Abele C., Droge S. T. J, Henneberger L., König M., Schlichting R., Scholz S., Escher B. I. (2018). “Cellular uptake kinetics of neutral and charged chemicals in in vitro assays measured by fluorescence microscopy”. Chemical Research in Toxicology 31 (8), 646–657.
  • Fischer F. C., Henneberger L., König M., Bittermann K., Linden L., Goss K.-U. Escher B. I. (2017). “Modeling exposure in the Tox21 in vitro bioassays”. Chemical Research in Toxicology 30 (5), 1197-1208.
  • Fischer F. C., Böhm L., Höss S., Möhlenkamp C., Claus E., Düring R.-A., Schäfer S. (2016). “Passive dosing in chronic toxicity tests with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans”. Environmental Science & Technology 50, 9708-9716.