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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

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. Throughout the world, an estimated 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation (WHO/UNICEF).

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, we are developing and evaluating strategies to ensure that water is safe to drink and use in our daily lives both locally and abroad.

Research Highlights

Protecting Drinking Water from Aging Infrastructure and Climate Change

In cities across the U.S., water systems are under threat as aging infrastructure is being stressed by climate change. To better understand where we should apply public health resources, Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health Kellogg Schwab, PhD, MSPH, and assistant scientist Natalie Exum, PhD ’16, MS, received funding from a Bloomberg American Health Initiative Spark Award to study what’s going on in the pipes—and what’s coming out of our faucets. Learn more (video).

A Mobile Data Collection Platform Helps Reveal the Prevalence of a Neglected Tropical Disease

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 200 million people are infected with the parasitic worms that cause schistosomiasis. Released by freshwater snails, the worms penetrate the skin of people who bathe in water contaminated by human sewage. The disease can cause liver damage, kidney failure, bladder cancer and infertility if left untreated. Working with the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 projectNatalie Exum, PhD ’16, MS, an assistant scientist in Environmental Health and Engineering, is putting mobile technology in the hands of local data collectors to help determine the disease’s prevalence in Uganda. Learn More.

An Assessment of Drinking Water in the Peruvian Amazon

The Peruvian Amazon, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, is subject to pressure from climate change, deforestation, mining, and urbanization, with translational impacts on water quality, ecosystems, and human health. Shifts in the water cycle due to changes in climate or land use threaten ecosystem stability, food security, economic status, and human health. Recent surges in developmental activities, including logging, agriculture, petrochemical operations, and mining, have caused increases in deforestation and external impacts. These changes can expose humans to pathogens and contaminants (e.g., heavy metals and pesticides) causing acute and chronic illness and water-related, vector-borne disease (e.g., malaria).

A team of Hopkins researchers traveled to the Peruvian rainforest to conduct an assessment of the quality of drinking water utilized by some of these villages to gain understanding of the overall safety of available potable water sources as a first step towards developing a broader water research platform. This study generated an enhanced evaluation of the sources and types of drinking water contaminants in the Peruvian Amazon. Learn more.

Associated Faculty

Bill Ball, PhD

A current interest of Ball's is the development and application of appropriate and sustainable technologies for developing nations, with focus on water resources, drinking water, and sanitation. 


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Natalie Exum, PhD

Natalie is the Senior Technical Advisor for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for PMA2020's mobile health data collection platform. She also leads the PMA2020 Schistosomiasis module in Uganda, which is providing a national assessment of the disease incidence throughout the country along with the WASH conditions of households to understand how to most effectively interrupt the transmission cycle. 


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Paul Ferraro, PhD

Ferraro's research focuses on behavioral economics and the design and evaluation of environmental programs in the private and public sector.


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Ciaran Harman, PhD*

Harman's research group studies water flow and transport from soil to hillslope to watershed scales. Our work combines theory development, field work, experimental studies, and numerical modeling. The work is organized around two broad themes: flow and transport in the landscape; and structure and evolution of the critical zone.


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Chris Heaney, PhD*

Heaney is currently studying the health impacts of recreational beach activities, particularly waterbourne and other infectious diseases. A goal of his lab is to advance understanding of the health consequences of joint exposures to pathogens and toxicants in environmental and occupational contexts, including food animal production, drinking and recreational water, and municipal and industrial waste management. 


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Ben Hobbs, PhD

Hobbs' research interests in this area encompass stochastic electric power planning models, multi-objective and risk analysis, mathematical programming models of imperfect energy markets, environmental and energy systems analysis and economics, and ecosystem management.



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Carsten Prasse, PhD

Carsten investigates the fate of contaminants in the built and natural environment using state-of-the-art analytical chemistry techniques (e.g. high-resolution mass spectrometry) with the focus on identifying transformation products and understanding underlying mechanisms of transformation in the urban water cycle.


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Kellogg Schwab, PhD*

Schwab's current research projects involve investigating innovative water reuse treatment options as well as improving environmental detection methods for noroviruses (the leading cause of non-bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide). He is also working with Hopkins colleagues to integrate mobile data collection to assess family planning along with water, sanitation and hygiene around the world.


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Fenna Sillé, PhD*

The focus of Dr. Sillé's research is understanding the effects of environmental exposures on the development and function of our immune system. Her major research directions are:

1. Understanding the long-term effects of early-life arsenic exposures on immunity and (infectious) disease risk. - Currently studying the interaction between arsenic and tuberculosis,

2. Establishing an integrated platform for immunotoxicity testing of early-life chemical exposures,

3. Investigating the effects early-life exposures on immunological memory and vaccine efficacy.


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Alan Stone, PhD

Stone has studied chemical reactions at nanoparticle/water interfaces for more than 25 years. Synthetic chemicals directly added to environmental media merit special attention, i.e. chemicals used in agriculture, animal production, forestry, and aquaculture, as large volumes of water are used for cooling, paper-making, and water supply. He researches how natural constituents found in such waters interact with treatment chemicals. 


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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.