The Department of Environmental Health and Engineering has a diverse range of research areas, which focus on the adverse influence of the environment on human health and with controlling these influences. In this regard, the Department considers “environment” in its broadest sense, including the natural, built and social environments. Our faculty's research focuses on agents in the environment, including biological, chemical and physical environmental agents.
The Department engages in a number of activities within this traditional approach, including studies of the sources and environmental distribution of such agents; human exposure to such agents; the body’s response at the molecular, cellular, organ system- and whole-body levels; environmental risk assessment; and prevention and intervention strategies (including environmental engineering, law, policy and communications solutions). As leading scientists, engineers, researchers, practitioners and academicians, we also know the importance of cutting-edge collaboration, creative and critical thinking and multi-disciplinary approaches. Emerging challenges call for novel approaches.
Air pollution and cardio-respiratory diseases
According to the World Health Organization, the link between indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, and air pollution and cancer, has become stronger.
Antimicrobial resistance and infectious disease
Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi, and is an increasingly serious threat to global public health.
Biosecurity and emerging threats
Our research aims to advance science, policy and practice in addressing a range of emerging threats.
Carcinogens and cancer
Critical environmental exposures contribute to chronic disease across the life span, especially in economically developing regions of the world. Chronic diseases and conditions—such as cancer—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.
Children's Environmental Health
Children are not little adults – they are particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures based on their unique behavior patterns and ongoing physiologic development. Children’s environmental health is a multidisciplinary field of science that aims to characterize early life environmental exposures and how they affect development and health throughout the lifespan. Our faculty have expertise assessing children’s exposures to chemicals, air pollutants, allergens, and other environmental hazards as well as determining effects of these exposures on children’s health.
Chronic disease etiology and prevention
Research in this area is focused on discovering novel molecular mechanisms that drive the pathophysiology of major chronic diseases to develop prevention and therapeutic strategies to improve public health.
Community sustainability, resilience and preparedness
Sustainability scholarship involves creating, integrating and harnessing new knowledge to protect and improve social and natural systems and their interactions.
Consumer product safety
Thousands of chemicals are approved for use in U.S. consumer products but few have been tested for safety. Many every day consumer products, such as cosmetics, furniture, toys, and food packaging, contain chemicals with unknown toxicity.
Faculty in EHE have been at the forefront of response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from policy approaches to health security to foundational biomedical research.
Energy management and alternative technologies
Research in this areas use optimization, economics, and decision analysis to plan, operate, and analyze power systems and their environmental effects, and for ecosystem restoration.
Environmental chemistry, microbiology and ecology
Research in this area seeks to understand foundational principles of environmental chemistry, microbiology and ecology, and apply this knowledge to elucidate linkages between environmental chemical and microbial exposures with human health outcomes.
Bacterial resistance to antimicrobials and antibiotics is one of the most pressing public health concerns around the world. Water systems are one of the major contributors to the spread of resistance, as improperly treated drinking water and wastewater can concentrate antibiotic and antimicrobial compounds while also carrying pathogens to and from human hosts. Environmental engineering research is concerned with issues that involve water and wastewater treatment, transport and fate of contaminants in natural and engineered environments, hazardous and solid waste management, hydrology, and environmental fluid dynamics.
EHE researchers are on the forefront of developing and applying advanced epidemiologic and causal inference approaches to address pressing environmental health challenges.
Environmental inequities and injustice
Communities are often disproportionately impacted by environmental and occupational hazards based on income, race, national origin, and other factors. Public health researchers have a vital role to play in understanding exposures and rates of negative health outcomes in different populations.
Environmental resource quality (air, water, sediments, soil)
The surroundings in which people live affect their health. The air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the food we eat are important to quality of life. Air, soil, and water quality all contribute to an individual's health status.
Food and agricultural systems
At a time of unprecedented levels of food production, little about the industrial food production model is critically analyzed to reveal its hidden or externalized costs and unintended negative effects. Many of today's industrial agriculture practices profoundly damage our soil, air, water, and ecosystem.
Geomorphology, geochemistry and hydrology
Geomorphology, geochemistry and hydrology areas of interest promote the fundamental understanding of processes at the Earth’s surface.
Global environmental change
Global environmental change, including climate change, ecosystems degradation, and species and biodiversity losses, has been so extensive that we now risk major impacts on human health and well-being.
Novel exposure assessment
Human exposure to particulate matter air pollution is linked to increased mortality, exacerbation of asthma and COPD symptoms, decreased respiratory rate and lung function, and increased blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risks.
Risk sciences and public policy
This research area provides multidisciplinary education designed to increase awareness of the scientific underpinnings of risk assessment and provide a bridge between science and policy that allows innovative public health solutions to complex problems.
Social and behavioral sciences
Understanding how people think, feel, or behave in specific situations, and how they interact and organize to influence the world around them is critical to building effective public health systems.
Toxicology, physiology and cell biology
The basic research in these areas focus on discovering novel molecular mechanisms that drive the pathophysiology of major chronic diseases to develop prevention and therapeutic strategies to improve public health.
Water, sanitation, hygiene and health
Water sanitation and hygiene are critical to health, survival, and development. Many countries are challenged in providing adequate sanitation for their entire populations, leaving people at risk for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related diseases.
Worker health and safety
Protecting workers from disease and injury is vital to our nation's health, and an important component of environmental health. These concerns include stress, indoor air quality and other dangers.