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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

Air Pollution and Cardio-respiratory Diseases


According to the World Health Organization, the link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer, has become stronger. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Continual exposure to airborne toxicants and particulate matter in communities around the globe can thus result in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, our research is focused on quantifying exposures to pollutants and on the biologic mechanisms that underlie the pathologies that lead to these chronic diseases. Such basic understanding is essential if there is to be any hope of reducing the impact of air pollution on human health and developing innovative solutions to ameliorate their effects.

Research Highlight

Source of Biomass Cooking Fuel Determines Pulmonary Response to Household Air Pollution

Approximately 3 billion people—half the worldwide population—are exposed to extremely high concentrations of household air pollution due to the burning of biomass fuels on inefficient cookstoves, accounting for 4 million annual deaths globally. We conducted a study using a rural cohort in Vadu village of the Pune district (Maharashtra, India) that uses biomass fuel as the primary source of cooking fuel. These homes contained closed kitchens that were separated from the rest of the house, thus limiting confounding effects of other household pollutants. The individuals who cooked used wood alone or a mixture of wood and cow dung. The goal of this study was to examine the pulmonary outcomes and understand the underlying molecular and cellular events in animal models exposed to PM collected from homes in rural India during cooking with biomass.

Associated Faculty

Shyam Biswal, PhD

Biswal's research focuses on therapeutic resistance of cancer due to a gain-of-function mutation in transcription factor Nrf2. Using patient-derived xenografts in humanized immunocompetent mice and GEM models, they aim to understand the mechanisms of oncogenic cooperation and metabolic adaptation in cancer cells. Biswal's team is also investigating the systemic and pulmonary effects of air pollution as well as the health effects of recent tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes and water pipes.


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Meghan Davis, DVM, PhD*

Davis' research examines the interface of bacteria and hosts to reduce microbe-mediated disease in humans and animals, and applies the principles of one health and microbial ecology, evaluating target microbes and bacterial genes specifically and the larger microbial community (microbiome) broadly.


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Shima Hamidi, PhD*

Dr. Hamidi has expertise in geospatial data, built environment, housing and transportation and their connections to public health.


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Ben Hobbs, PhD

Hobbs' research and teaching concerns the application of systems analysis and economics to electric utility regulation, planning, and operations, as well as environmental and water resources systems.


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Kirsten Koehler, PhD*

Koehler's goals are to improve exposure assessment methods to inform occupational and public health policy. Her research goals involve the use of direct-reading instrumentation to improve spatiotemporal exposure assessment.


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Mark Kohr, PhD*

Kohr researches environmental pollutants and other factors that are thought to contribute to the development and/or exacerbation of cardiovascular disease, in part, by disrupting the nitroso-redox equilibrium in the cardiovascular system.


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Paul Locke, JD, DrPH

Locke’s research and practice target the intersection of environmental health sciences, policy and law in the areas of radiation policy and law and toxicity testing. His areas of study include alternatives to animals in biomedical testing and toxicology, radon risk science and policy, radiation risk analysis, uranium mining, high-level radioactive waste disposal and the application of low dose radiobiology to policy making.


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Scot Miller, PhD

Scot studies greenhouse gases and air pollution. Effective climate and air quality regulations depend upon reliable emissions estimates. Scot works to improve these estimates from local to global scales. His existing projects focus on global change in the Arctic, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and emissions from energy industries (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas). Scot’s research also utilizes statistics, high performance computing, and tools for big data.


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Wayne Mitzner, PhD

Miztner's lab studies basic mechanisms that underlie the physiologic and pathologic manifestations of several different lung diseases, particularly emphysema and asthma. 


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Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD

Lesliam's research focuses on characterizing environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting agents and examining their potential health effects on highly vulnerable, low-income and minority populations underrepresented and understudied in public health research, including occupational populations, pregnant women and women of reproductive age, and children.


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Gurumurthy "Ram" Ramachandran, PhD, CIH*

Ram has conducted research in various areas relating to human exposure assessment in occupational, residential, and outdoor settings. His research has included the development of occupational exposure assessment strategies for airborne contaminants.


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Ana Rule, PhD*

Rule's primary research goal is the development and evaluation of novel sampling and analysis strategies for the assessment of exposure to biological aerosols and particulate matter.


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Brian Schwartz, MD*

A large part of Schwarz's research applies the methods of occupational, environmental, and molecular epidemiology to studying the health effects of chemicals. Health effects of interest include those in the central nervous (e.g., cognitive function, brain structure), peripheral nervous, cardiovascular, and renal systems.


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Genee Smith, PhD*

Smith explores disease patterns with the aim to expand upon the knowledge of understudied relationships between climate change and infectious respiratory diseases, including conditions such as tuberculosis and influenza.


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Marsha Wills-Karp, PhD

Wills-Karp's research activities focus on defining the environmental and genetic determinants of allergic airway diseases such as asthma, and has specifically explored the role of CD4+ Th2 cells and cytokines (IL-13), and innate immune pathways (complement activation pathways, TLRs, CLRs), in the pathogenesis of asthma.

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Peter DeCarlo, PhD*

Peter DeCarlo, PhD, studies the chemical composition of gas particles in the air to improve our understanding of climate, air quality, and health impacts of pollutants.

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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.