John W. Brock, Ph.D.

Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Toxicology

Contact Information

  • 232-5173
  • 108 Zeis Hall

Office Hours

  • Tuesday 8:00 am - 9:30 am
  • Thursday 2:40 pm - 3:50 pm
  • Friday 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Note: And by appointment. Online, see Moodle for details.


  • 2016-present  University of North Carolina Asheville – Professor
  • 2001-2015  Warren Wilson College – Professor
  • 1992-2001  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Senior Research Scientist
  • 1991-1992  University of Colorado Boulder – Postdoctoral Fellow
  • 1991  Ph.D. - Analytical Chemistry/Neuroscience – Emory University
  • 1981  B.S. - Chemistry – Kentucky Wesleyan College

Visiting researcher appointments (usually summers):

  • 2001-2005 Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2009-2010 National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, USA (sabbatical)
  • 2013-2016 Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA

About me

I come from a long line of unsuccessful farmers who, fortunately, believed in the value of education. I am a proud first-generation high school and college graduate. After undergraduate school, I worked in industry for 5 years automating laboratories with robotic systems and studying computer science. In graduate school at Emory University, I studied analytical chemistry and neurotoxicology while also working at the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After graduate school, I accepted a post-doctoral fellowship to study atmospheric chemistry and human health at the University of Colorado Boulder. After Colorado, I returned to Atlanta to supervise a research group working on cancer studies analyzing organochlorine pesticides and PCB’s in human sera. During this time, my research group developed novel methods to analyze urinary phthalate metabolites using liquid chromatography coupled to a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. In 2001, I left CDC for family reasons and became a professor at Warren Wilson College. I moved to UNCA in 2016 and helped establish a new liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry laboratory. In addition to teaching at UNC Asheville, I am an Adjunct Professor for the Public Health Leadership Programat the Gillings School of Public Health, UNC Chapel Hill.

My teaching approach and experience

Mentoring young scientists is one of my greatest joys. I see each student as an individual and ask “what does this young person need right now?” It is such a gift to help young people find their passion and watch them develop as life-long learners. I enjoy teaching science in a liberal arts institution and connecting chemistry and toxicology to every day experiences. Pedagogically, learning should be engaging and fun. My students and I have traveled to the Florida Everglades, Iceland, Denmark, China, and Africa. Students and I have even wrestled alligators in the name of science (to obtain blood for studies of reproduction). I was fortunate to win the Teaching Excellence Award at Warren Wilson College in 2005.

In addition to teaching at UNC Asheville, I'm also an Adjunct Professor in the Public Health Leadership Program at the Gillings School of Public Health, UNC Chapel Hill.

My current research focus at UNC Asheville

If we took a teaspoon of your blood and analyzed it, we would find hundreds of xenobiotic chemicals from environmental exposures. I have spent the better part of my life trying to determine which of these chemicals we need to worry about and which are benign. At CDC, I initially focused on cancer as the outcome but now focus more on chemicals that alter hormonal signaling during pregnancy. The availability of state-of-the-art instrumentation at UNCA has allowed my research group to investigate these exposures.

My group has on-going collaborations with researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The projects we work on are scalable and fit well with our undergraduate Chemistry curriculum.

My research students have graduated to successful careers in toxicology, chemistry, dentistry, nursing, and medicine. A few, unlike my ancestors, have even gone on to be successful farmers. Thankfully, most seem happy with their lives.

Selected publications (out of about 65 total)

  • Wenzel AG, Brock JW, Cruze L, Newman RB, Unal ER, Wolf BJ, and Kucklick JR. Prevalence and predictors of phthalate exposure in pregnant women in Charleston, SC. Chemosphere, 2017, 193:394-402.
  • Duty SM, Singh NP, Silva MJ, Barr DB, Brock JW, Ryan L, Herrick RF, Christiani DC, Hauser R. The relationship between environmental exposures to phthalates and DNA damage in human sperm using the neutral comet assay. Environ Health Persp, 2003, 111:1164-9.
  • Blount BC, Milgram KE, Silva M, Malek N, Reidy JA, Needham LL, Brock JW. Quantitative detection of eight phthalate metabolites in human urine using HPLC-APCI-MS/MS. Anal Chem, 2000, 72:4127-4134.
  • Blount BC, Silva MJ, Caudill SP, Needham LL, Pirkle JL, Sampson EJ, Lucier GW, Jackson RJ, Brock JW. Urinary phthalate metabolites in a reference human population. Environ Health Persp, 2000, 108:979-982.
  • Brock JW, Bell JM, Guillette LJ Jr. Urinary Phthalate Metabolites in American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from Selected Florida Wetlands. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol, 2016, 71-1-6.
  • Chollet AL and Brock JW. Evaluation of lead content of kale commercially-available in Buncombe County, North Carolina. JNCAS, 2008, 124:23-25.